Indian Army 2020

A nation’s military is a major but unstated factor in international Realpolitik, howsoever moderated and underplayed, in acknowledgement of international sensitivities. Nevertheless, its existence and capabilities percolate into the public domain, domestic as well as international, and its presence, even unstated, becomes a background presence, which provides a sense of hard-edge backup to the national establishment for undertaking effective front line diplomacy. It is, therefore, essential in the national interest that the armed forces are upgraded and updated on an ongoing basis, something which governments have been traditionally loath to acknowledge and undertake, the Indian government perhaps more so than others in this respect.

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Special Forces for Indian Conditions

The debate on Special Forces (SF) surfaces off and on and it dies down without taking it to its logical conclusion. Ironically, the concept has rarely been addressed in its entirety. The concept loses its sheen when discussed in isolation. It remains a theoretical exercise. It has been seen that more often than not, the western model is aped or replicated whether it suits Indian conditions or not. The debate, therefore, remains inconclusive and cosmetic in nature, being far removed from ground realities and needs. The basic issue of the requirement of SF in our context needs to be understood in the correct perspective. Taking SF for Commando Forces needs to be guarded against. The traits / characteristics of SF to act as a Force Multiplier need to be better understood. SF are and have always been synonymous with strategic interests. Strategic interests are at national and global levels. SF if employed in isolation and not in concert with national aims and objectives result in wasting a very potent and scarce resource.  If national level objectives or strategic objectives were concise and clear, then SF would not end up as Commando Troops. For carrying out commando type of tasks, we already have highly trained commando troops at formation levels as well as at Infantry Battalion levels (now called ‘Ghataks’). Thus, some of the issues that need to be debated upon are, firstly, to establish the ‘Need’, ‘Necessity’ and ‘Imperative’; secondly, it’s ‘Quantum’ and thirdly who should ‘control’ them. To understand about these issues in correct perspective, the roles generally assigned to SF are as follows: ·         Prepare the ground for conventional operations. The US SF were employed in northeastern Iraq prior to the US offensive in Iraq. ·         Act as a catalyst.  Allied SF were extensively used in Iraq and Afghanistan.

·         Operate behind enemy lines – covert warfare. 

·         Act as a Force Multiplier in conjunction with conventional operations. To achieve the role, SF soldiers have to be physically very fit and mentally robust. They specialise in unconventional and unorthodox warfare, counter insurgency warfare, counter terrorism operations, commando assaults, deep reconnaissance or intelligence collection forays. SF forte: specialist in water borne operation, scuba diving, underwater demolition, riverine combat, raids along the coastal lines, parachuting, helicopter assaults, psy operations, and raids on land and counter terrorism operations.  To achieve the specialty of SF, the soldier has got to be as calm and motionless as a surgeon, as picky about details as an accountant, as brainy as a scientist, and also be earthly and profane, with controlled violence, a maverick as well as a team player. The concept of employment precludes application in large numbers. SF are generally employed in small teams. Small teams act as fourth generation warfare and are dovetailed into conventional plans at the strategic levels. These teams are usefully used as human tripwire as also part of deception plans at the highest level. Therefore, SF soldiers should be thought of and planned as a weapon system to act as a Force Multiplier. This resource and asset should not be frittered away at tactical levels. The SF have a very comprehensive training curriculum. Detailed planning is required for infiltration plans including aerial insertion. They need to be masters in micro terrain analysis and mission analysis, proficient in metrological survey, well versed with rules of engagement, able to understand demographics and local population, and proficient in dealing with area specific terrorism threats. They need to adjust quickly to the friction and fog of war. For operating deep inside enemy territory, they need to be free fall parachutist, underwater diver, and outstanding sniper.  SF personnel should be expert in escape and invasion.  For strategic employment in an alien land SF soldiers ought to be linguists and experts in memorising maps. The purpose of highlighting the above aspect of SF is to explain in most simple words about what goes into the making of this elite force. When we talk about creating a Division sized force as also creating an SF command on the lines of the US Army, we forget that the US has a global army and has global interests. So far, our strategic thinking is restricted to nations in the immediate vicinity. Therefore, do we really require large numbers of SF?  The quantum has got to be in conformity with our strategic needs. Unless we want to end up employing them as mere commando troops, which is a criminal waste of SF effort and inputs that have gone into training such a force? Apparently, a clear-cut policy on employment of SF at the national level is conspicuously absent and most of the time this very important resource is used to enhance the interest of local commanders. It amounts to augmenting and supplementing efforts at tactical levels and not at strategic levels.

Based on threat perceptions and to protect our national interests, including sea-lanes and economic zones, there is certainly a need to increase the number of SF units from the  existing five. The recent tsunami in the Indian Ocean has brought to the fore new Indian Initiatives. Our reach has clearly been demonstrated. Our future requirements need to be assessed keeping in view the role India will have to discharge as an Asian power This will also cater to the needs of future wars or types of warfare, which envisage increased reliance on SF. 

Since it is a strategic force, control should be exercised at strategic levels. However, for peacetime on the job training, the control could be exercised by theatre commands as hitherto done. This force should be employed under the aegis of CDS as and when it comes into effect. For the time being, the SF should be placed under the CIDS for judicious and timely employment. The ‘Garud’ Force created by the Air Force for installation protection is merely carrying out the function of firefighting i.e. immediate response.  Similarly, the Marcos of the Indian Navy are meant for immediate response in the naval domain. Whether they are the Garuds of the Air Force or the Marcos of the Indian Navy, they are in a true sense, service specific forces to deal with local contingencies.

Therefore, we should not blindly follow the US or UK model of SF. Their needs and interests are much too different.  They are known to fight battles and wars not on their own territory. SF are always employed with a definite plan, whether it is ground preparation or gaining intelligence or psychological operations to achieve strategic objectives. The need of the hour is to equip them with state-of-the-art weapon systems and equipment to improve their mobility and lethality .We need to equip and train our SF to meet our immediate needs, as also long-term needs. Stability and consistency in the strategic thinking is a must .It should not be changed with the change of people at the helm of affairs. Continuity is a must to work on such a concept as the gestation period is long and cost inputs are very high. Therefore, a progressive and consolidative approach is a must.  Thus, there is a need to equip and train the existing assets to the highest standards before embarking on new additions. We have an outstanding existing infrastructure to train SF and we should optimise its utilisation. There is also a need to continuously review our needs and have additions to the existing infrastructure, as training is a time consuming and costly proposition. Prudence, therefore, demands that instead of creating a SF for the sake of having an elite and exclusive force, it better be evaluated based on our strategic interests. The strategic interests will encompass geo-political ambitions, national ideology, and the terrain and demographics of the projected area of operations. Amongst the tasks mentioned earlier, another important task could well emerge if the weapons of mass destruction in our neighborhood fall into the hands of Jihadis. If the need doesn’t warrant a high degree of sophistication it could well be the model being followed by ISI in the state of Jammu & Kashmir and more recently in the Northeast after the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan. They may call them ‘Jihadis’ but in fact they have done much beyond their mandate in the state of Jammu & Kashmir and are likely to do so in the Northeast. These so called jihadis have changed the Sufiana culture in the Valley and in parts of Doda and Udhampur districts of Jammu & Kashmir. Before 1989, there were no beef or pork shops in the state of Jammu & Kashmir. Both Hindus and Muslims were explicitly following aan unwritten convention. After 1990 the proliferation of beef shops has surpassed all imagination. Obviously, this was done under coercion. This is just one example of Talibanisation carried out by the so-called jihadis. These jihadis have addressed a lot of other areas, which have radically changed the psyche of the peace-loving Kashmiris into a militant mindset. This process has been carried out in a very systematic and deliberate manner. Ethnic cleansing is still being carried out with a calibrated response. The SF model could well be a regular model or irregular model. Even the most disorganised guerrillas in Iraq, though irregulars, are some sort of Special Forces and are playing havoc. A word of caution here, the type of SF should not be mixed up with the type of warfare / tactics being adopted. We must, therefore, decide what type and quantum of SF we need and in what context. The writer is former Commandant, Counter Insurgency Jungle Warfare School, Mizoram. Courtesy: Indian Defence Review, vol 19.4

Indian Special Forces: Reorganising for an Expanding Role

Indian Special Forces: Reorganising for an Expanding Role

Brig. (r) Gurmeet Kanwal

Senior Fellow, Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi

Critical examination of the role and employment of India’s Special Forces (SF) and the organizational structure necessary to support this important component of India’s armed forces, must necessarily be based on a holistic assessment of the current and future threats and challenges to national security. These have been articulated in the Indian Defence Review in some detail earlier. [i] In addition to the traditional threats to India’s security, newer challenges are surfacing with every passing year. Increasing acts of piracy, rampant exploitation of India’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and the smuggling of contraband goods as well as WMD-related materials threaten India’s maritime security. Non-traditional threats to national security, to which only lip service was paid till recently, are now gradually coming into sharper focus as they escalate to menacing proportions. The safety of India’s energy-related infrastructure (oil rigs and exploration platforms, refineries, oil and gas pipelines, thermal and nuclear power plants, hydro-electric projects and power transmission facilities) against the threat of terrorism is an emerging concern as frequent interruptions in power supply will adversely affect India’s growth rate aims and projections.

Since its independence in 1947, India has followed a fairly autonomous foreign policy and has consciously decided not to join military alliances. However, in an increasingly interdependent world, multi-national joint and combined operations to defeat a common threat are gradually gaining currency. It would not be prudent to rule out the possibility of Indian armed forces joining international coalitions for achieving specific political and military aims. India is already engaged in pro-active military exercises as part of its new defense cooperation strategy with friendly nations. In future this is bound to lead to joint operations, particularly at sea. For example, India may find it in its interest to join the recently launched Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) and Container Security Initiative (CSI). These could involve joint seizure operations. Also, in future joint patrolling of the sea lanes of communication (SLOCs) in the Indian Ocean with other friendly navies, particularly in choke points such as the Malacca Straits, is a distinct possibility.  

In the prevailing era of strategic uncertainty, carefully structured, equipped and trained Special Forces (SF) provide the most reliable means to a government for the application of military force to achieve national security objectives. The SF components of a nation’s military forces and other security forces are force multipliers in times of both war and peace. If they are suitably organized and provided dedicated transportation facilities for rapid induction, they provide policy planners with multiple options to deal with emergent situations. Special Forces can achieve dramatic results with small numbers, in the least possible time, at minimum political cost and with low casualties. In fact, in certain situations, particularly when “deniability” of the use of force is a key political criterion, it is not possible to employ regular forces at all and SF provide the only viable option to the government. For example, for trans-Line of Control (LoC) raids to destroy terrorist hideouts and their support infrastructure in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK), or to launch a pre-emptive strike against a group of infiltrators planning to cross the LoC, only the SF can be employed due to the deniability inherent in their tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs).

Special Forces in Iraq The recent United States (US)-led campaign in Iraq has vividly highlighted the wide range of employment possibilities that the SF provide to a theatre commander. The multifarious tasks allotted to the SF, the manner in which these were accomplished, the methods of insertion into the combat zone and extraction from it, the detailed coordination between the SF, the ground and air forces and the marines and the mode of sustenance in the areas of responsibility over long periods, illustrate both the outstanding capabilities of the SF and the professional hazards of planning SF operations. It is an experience that is relevant to an emerging regional power like India and must be examined in detail. Text Box: When confronted with the hijacking of an Indian Airlines aircraft to Kandahar, India lacked not only the political will but also the requisite military capability to respond suitably. If the Indian Special Forces had the capability to storm the aircraft parked on the tarmac, India would not have had to suffer the ignominy of succumbing to the blackmailing machinations of mercenary Pakistani gangsters. An attempt could have been made to repeat the success stories of Entebbe and Mogadishu at Kandahar with a reasonable chance of success.Inducted into the theatre of operations well before the actual war began, the US Army's under-cover Delta Force, Green Berets and Rangers; the Navy's SEALS, and a handful of Air Force and Marine Corps units, together with British and Australian SF units, played a bigger role in Iraq than in any other war in recent history. Numbering nearly 10,000 of the estimated 100,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, the SF fielded the largest number in any war since the Vietnam conflict in the 1960s and 1970s. The CIA also had a small number of operatives in Iraq and together with the SF, they launched joint operations, synergising the special strengths of each individual force and helping to overcome the weaknesses. SF commandos provided accurate information about Iraqi deployments and movements. They also directed air-to-ground strikes on the Republican Guards and other Iraqi forces. Dubbed as an “inoculation strategy” – killing or disabling Iraqi forces before they could be effectively employed against Coalition forces – the SF launched raids to prevent the Iraqis from blowing up bridges and dams. They hunted leadership targets in Baghdad, organised Kurdish resistance in the north and secured the western border of Iraq even though they lacked the capacity to seal it completely. Super-secret sniper teams boldly operated within the Iraqi capital itself.


Operating in small teams, the SF raiding parties disrupted Iraqi command and control, seized oil wells and captured suspected sites from where Scud missiles might have been launched at Israel. They disrupted Iraqi lines of communication and acted as decoys to lure Iraqi forces into pre-designated “killing” areas where the Iraqis were decimated by air and artillery strikes. Under the cover of darkness, they hunted and assassinated Baath Party members and Republican Guard leaders, demolished selected bridges to deny their use to the Iraqis and even waged cyberwarfare using viruses to disable computers at military command centers, power plants and telephone networks. They were especially effective once the urban fights began. Joined by their British, Australian and Polish counterparts, the SF undoubtedly hastened the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s government. Some of their specific achievements were as follows : [ii] •        Destroyed Scud missile launchers in western Iraq, secured oil fields in northern and southern Iraq and seized the Haditha Dam northwest of Baghdad that could have been used to flood the battlefield. •        Called in air and artillery strikes on countless targets, including Saddam's palaces and military compounds and on Ansar al-Islam, a militant Islamic group in northern Iraq that the Bush administration said had links with al-Qaeda. •        Searched and secured almost a dozen of nearly 1,000 suspected biological and chemical weapons sites and broke into homes of Iraqi scientists to recover documents about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (WMD). (However, no evidence of the illicit weapons was found.) •        Tapped into Iraq's Chinese-built fiber optics communications, allowing U.S. forces to intercept the conversations of Iraq's military and political leadership. They also recruited Iraqis to provide information on Saddam's whereabouts. The spectacular success of SF in Gulf War II was in marked contrast to their employment in Gulf War I in which General Norman Schwarzkopf had confined them to executing mainly traditional commando tasks behind Iraqi lines. Their success in Gulf War II clearly brings out their real potential for making a strategic impact on a military campaign when employed skillfully and given directive control over the planning and execution of the role assigned to them. Operational efficiency in the peace-time combat situations in which the Indian armed forces are perpetually engaged, especially operations other than war (OOTW) in a LIC context, would be vastly enhanced by the carefully calibrated employment of SF.   Employment of Indian SF in LIC Operations

Despite recent peace overtures, the Pakistan army is likely to continue its low-cost, low-risk, high-payoff option of waging a proxy war against India as its very reason for existence in such large numbers depends on continued hostility towards India and gives it a unique leverage during negotiations. The Indian security forces can break out from the present situation of a strategic stalemate in Kashmir only if the deployment of SF units is substantially enhanced and they are effectively utilized for trans-LoC operations. They must be employed on a regular basis to raid known ISI terrorist training camps and launch pads for infiltration. They should be utilized to launch clandestine attacks to destroy logistics installations and infrastructure in POK such as ammunition and FOL (fuel, oil and lubricants) dumps, bridges, radio-relay communications towers and battalion and brigade headquarters.

Besides continuous artillery shelling that has the attendant disadvantage of causing collateral damage to civilian life and property, the trans-LoC employment of SF provides the only viable option to hurt Pakistani army personnel and ultimately break their will to fight a senseless limited war. Such hit-and-run attacks in the rear areas in POK will substantially degrade the Pakistan army’s potential to sustain a long drawn out campaign to infiltrate trained terrorists into Kashmir. The objective should be to raise Pakistan’s cost of waging a proxy war both politically as well as militarily. At present, while Indian security forces are targeted on a daily basis, the Pakistan army suffers no casualties as all the fighting on its behalf is done by hired mercenary terrorists – the so-called mujahideen. Employment of Indian SF in Conventional Operations

Gulf War II is a good pointer to the type of roles that could be profitably assigned to the SF in conventional operations. While strategic reconnaissance will remain a primary responsibility, the SF must be employed more aggressively to cause disruption behind enemy lines, to seize an airhead or a bridgehead across an obstacle in depth through heli-landings and to establish a forward operating base for attack helicopters during break out operations with armored divisions. SF units are the best equipped force to destroy the enemy’s nuclear warhead storage sites for battlefield nuclear weapons, missile bases, rocket launcher hides, medium guns, tank transporter vehicles in harbors and waiting areas, communications nodes, logistics installations and headquarters, among other such high value targets.

In the mountains the employment of SF units has to be more nuanced. During the 1999 Kargil conflict, some of them were employed as super-infantry to launch attacks that were foredoomed to failure. Later, these SF units were criticized for not succeeding. Such temptations to hasten the speed and tempo of operations must be curbed. Operations in the Himalayan mountains are a hard slogging match with high casualty rates because of the almost complete lack of opportunities for maneuver. Envelopments and turning movements in the mountains are dreamt of only by those higher commanders who have spent most of their service in mechanized formations. Due to the painfully slow and laborious nature of offensive operations, it is difficult to achieve worthwhile progress even at the tactical level in a politically acceptable time frame.

As every officer with experience of mountain warfare knows, an infantry division can realistically advance only about eight to 10 km in about two weeks. A brigade group can take only one major mountain feature before and even for that it usually requires at least one additional battalion.  However, by inserting SF units behind enemy lines, a commander can conduct simultaneous operations in depth and succeed in unhinging the enemy and causing paralysis in conjunction with skillfully coordinated air-to-ground strikes, information operations and cyber-warfare. He can also plan to make the enemy’s forward defenses untenable by driving a wedge between his logistics support areas and forward defenses. Simultaneity of operations in frontage and depth invariably enhances the speed of operations and helps to maintain the tempo.

Analysis of Future Requirement of SF Units An accurate analysis of the exact number of SF units for future requirements must be based on a holistic appraisal of India’s national security objectives and the military strategy necessary to achieve those objectives. Though a Strategic Defence Review is reported to have been carried out by the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB), its recommendations have not been made public. However, clearly the present number of battalions is grossly inadequate. Bharat Karnad has consistently recommended a 10,000 strong SF component, “rising to perhaps a division strength in due course.” [iii] The COAS had stated in January 2004 that the strength of Indian SF is to be raised from the “current five battalions to 10 within four years” and agreed with the need to modernize SF units. [iv] It has been recently reported that “a study group set up by the army recommended that the army increase its present strength from the existing five battalion of Special Forces to 13 by 2010.”[v] The current and emerging threats and challenges to national security are such that only those steeped in a deeply pacifist tradition would quibble with the need for substantial enhancement in the number of SF units so as to be able to employ them more pro-actively. Cordon-and-search type counter-insurgency operations at company and battalion level, supplemented by ambushes, raids, domination patrols and mobile check posts, produce only limited results and are a drain on resources. They also serve to alienate the people against the state as the people view them as deliberate harassment. The army needs to review its present counter-insurgency doctrine that is now producing only diminishing returns. Greater reliance on invisible and quiet SF operations, marked by surgical strikes based on “actionable” intelligence gathered by SF personnel themselves, will yield greater dividends. For the ongoing LIC operations both 15 and 16 Corps have an inescapable requirement of at least two SF battalions each during the summer months. Ideally, the divisions deployed on the LoC in each Corps sector should have one battalion between them for trans-LoC operations to strike at the infrastructure set up by the ISI for infiltration. Similarly, the Rashtriya Rifles Force HQ in the hinterland of both the Corps should be able to share the resources of one battalion each. In Eastern Command, 3 and 4 Corps, deployed for internal security operations in the north-eastern states should both have one SF battalion each available to them throughout the year. Hence, if six battalions are to be employed almost continuously for counter-insurgency and internal security duties, a similar number should be available to relieve them after their two-year tenure. This means 12 SF battalions should be available at all times purely for LIC operations.

It must be clearly stated that while the requirement is of six battalions for operations that are ongoing currently, their allotment to lower level formations would be in teams for specific operations and durations and employment would still be in squads, in keeping with the well-evolved operational ethos of SF units in counter-insurgency/counter-terrorism operations. They must be employed for strategic effect though an individual operation may be purely tactical. For example, when the Charar-e-Sharif shrine was burnt down by the Hizbul Mujahideen in 1995 and Mast Gul escaped through the army cordon, the task of hunting him down and capturing him before he could cross the LoC into POK should have been entrusted to the SF. However, this could only have been done if various likely contingencies had been anticipated and a team had been following the events closely. Using their language skills and melting with the people, SF personnel can provide high-value strategic intelligence even in counter-insurgency/internal security operations.

The employment of SF units in Bangladesh and Nepal to further India’s national interests is a distinct possibility in future. Their tasks could include raids on terrorist training camps and hideouts and the capture of insurgent leaders like Paresh Baruah if the government of Bangladesh continues to deny any knowledge of their whereabouts. Even battalion size SF operations to destroy insurgent camps in areas contiguous to India’s borders with Myanmar and Bangladesh are well within the realm of possibility. Given the unstable security situation and the ever increasing influence of Islamist fundamentalist elements in the countries in India’s neighborhood, it may one day become necessary to launch an SF operation to evacuate an Indian ambassador and his staff from their chancery building. India’s security planners must learn the lessons of the unsuccessful US intervention in Iran during the Carter administration and develop capabilities accordingly.

Other out-of-area contingencies could occur on India’s island territories. Intervention may become necessary to support friendly governments making a request for aid, as was the case in the Maldives in the late-1980s. It is now well known that Indian forces were standing by to intervene at the request of the government of Mauritius too around the same time. There may be occasions when army SF units need to reinforce the navy’s MARCOS during an operation at sea. Another Sierra Leone type SF operation to reinforce and relieve besieged Indian peacekeepers will always be a possibility as UN peacekeeping operations are becoming more complex and are increasingly tending to be launched under Chapter VII instead of Chapter VI of the UN Charter. 

It emerges from the need to prepare for such contingencies and the requirement of SF units during conventional war that Indian SF units must gradually go up to about 12 to 15 in number. Careful analysis of the requirements reveals that most of the tasks are of the para-commando variety and only some of the tasks are the highly specialized ones that the US and coalition forces SF units were called upon to perform in Afghanistan and Iraq. It may therefore be tempting to organize, equip and train about 10 to 12 SF units like the present para-commando units and re-structure and upgrade only two to three units to genuine SF capabilities for operations deep inside hostile territory. Succumbing to such a temptation will result in creating an elite force within an elite force and can only lead to lack of coherence and heartburn. All SF units must be organized and equipped alike though within each unit the personnel may have different skill sets for different contingencies. Quite obviously, it would be extremely difficult to find suitably qualified volunteers in adequate numbers for such a large force. Also, such expansion would add to the country’s defense budget and must be spread out over at least two decades. Once an operational requirement is established and accepted by the government, the rest is a matter of detail and all contentious issues can be eventually resolved – even if each doubting Thomas has to be dragged kicking and screaming to do his bit. Bharat Karnad has called for the immediate raising of a Special Forces Command on the US pattern.[vi] Though most Indian analysts are of the view that the recommendation is premature at present as the Indian armed forces are light years away from graduating to the Chief of Defence Staff system with integrated theatre commands, it is undeniably operationally justifiable in the emerging strategic scenario. SF units and personnel are a scarce resource that should be closely integrated at the national level for optimum operational efficiency. In this context, the ad hoc raising of SF units by various security forces by obtaining government sanction on a case-by-case basis must cease forthwith as such accretions lack synergy and are a national waste. Need for Political Will The Indian army’s SF battalions have notched up several impressive achievements during both conventional operations and low intensity conflict (LIC). However, their numbers, capabilities, organizational and ancillary support structures, the quality of their leadership and the training standards of their personnel need to be substantially enhanced for their optimal exploitation in support of current and future national security objectives. Also, the army’s SF battalions, the navy’s MARCOS (marine commandos) and the air force’s commando units (Garud) that are reported to be under raising, need to be closely integrated in order to achieve synergy of operations. Unless they are equipped with compatible communications equipment, have similar TTPs and train to common standards, they will not be able to operate effectively with the degree of “jointness” necessary in modern warfare. Classical SF tasks call for language and survival skills and training standards, including mental conditioning, of a very high order. Only the toughest, the fittest, the most dexterous and the bravest soldiers would meet the exacting demands of operations behind enemy lines. Those with the right potential must be carefully selected and thoroughly trained for the tasks that are likely to be assigned to them during war. Military commanders have been traditionally reluctant to accord to the SF a significant role in their operational plans partly because of a poor understanding of their capabilities and partly because they see Special Forces as “these shadow guys who go off and fight their own war.” During Gulf War I, General Norman Schwarzkopf used the “snake eaters”, as the SF are sometimes called, only sparingly. However, in Gulf War II, General Tommy Franks leaned on his experience in Afghanistan and used the SF very effectively. The unconventional employment of Special Forces in small teams dispersed all over the Iraqi desert provided a force multiplier capability to the Coalition forces that was possibly way beyond their own expectations. Indian Special Forces also need to be armed, equipped, trained and employed behind enemy lines in a similar fashion. The wherewithal necessary to insert and, subsequently, support them in such employment over sustained periods must be acquired no matter what the cost.   It needs to be appreciated by India’s policy planners that in many situations when war has not yet commenced and it is not possible to employ ground forces overtly, Special Forces can be launched covertly to achieve important military objectives with inherent deniability. In Kandahar-type situations they provide the only viable military option. However, they can act with assurance only if they have been well organized and well trained for the multifarious tasks that they may be called upon to perform. Above all else, it must be realized that Indian policy planners need to cultivate the political will necessary to boldly employ SF units to further national interests without being too squeamish about legal niceties. There are enough precedents from the Cold War and the period that followed it. However, political will is not a commodity that can be switched on and off. It requires a permanent change of mindset from the present ethos of belonging to a soft state to one in which national security is never compromised no matter how negative the political impact may be internationally. If India cannot learn from the example of the US, the country must at least learn from the examples set by Israel and South Africa.    

This article first appeared in the Indian Defence Review and has been reproduced here with the permission of the author.



[i] For an analysis of the internal and external security environment and the battlefield milieu likely to prevail around 2015-2020, see Gurmeet Kanwal, “Army Vision 2020: Restructuring for an Era of Strategic Uncertainty”, Indian Defence Review, New Delhi, January-March 2004, pp. 31-35.
[ii] Jack Kelley, “Covert Troops Fight Shadow War Off-camera”, USA Today, April 7, 2003. (
[iii] Bharat Karnad, “Winning Low Intensity Conflict: Special Operations Forces”, Indian Defence Review, New Delhi, July-September 2000, Pp. 99.  More recently he has written that the SF strength should be two divisions eventually. “To Pack a Good Wallop”, The Week, December 28, 2003, Pp. 33.

[iv] “More Army Mission Specialists on Anvil”, Hindustan Times, January 16, 2004. (A similar report had appeared earlier, soon after Gulf War II. See Aditya Sinha, “Indian Army to Raise US-type Special Forces”, Hindustan Times, April 20, 2003.

[v] Saikat Datta, Outlook, November 8, 2004.
[vi] n. 3.

India and the Demise of Global Arms Control Regime

The last few months have been particularly difficult for the global non-proliferation and arms control regime. From Iran to North Korea, from the nuclear black-market of A.Q. Khan to Brazil, new challenges are emerging virtually every other day and threaten to undermine the global arms control architecture. Forced by India’s open challenge to the global arms control and disarmament framework in May 1998, major powers in the international system seem to be re-evaluating their orientation towards global arms control and non-proliferation. Consequently, international arms control today seems to be heading for a slow but long overdue and inevitable demise. 

The origins of this shake-up of the global security environment can be traced to the Indian challenge to the status quo in May of 1998. Indian nuclear tests were the first open challenge to the system, especially by a “responsible” as opposed to a “rogue” member of international community. Some might argue that surreptitious Chinese weapons proliferation and clandestine nuclear programs undercut the arms control regime long before the Indian nuclear tests. Nonetheless, the nuclear tests significantly altered the contours of the existing security architecture already under stress in the post Cold War era. India’s open defiance marked the real beginning of the end of the non-proliferation regime and the consequences for global security have been nothing less than revolutionary. 

The first major blow came in the form of the rejection of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) by the US Senate in 1999. Then the US decided to withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty of 1972. The US argued that the new kinds of threats in the post-Cold War period, especially the ballistic missile threats from the "rogue" states and terrorist groups, made this treaty irrelevant to the changed security needs of the US. It should be noted that the ABM treaty has long been seen as a high point of arms-control success in maintaining international stability during the cold war. The withdrawal of the US from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty paved the way for the US pursuit of its ballistic missile defense (BMD) program without any formal restrictions. The US ordered the deployment of six interceptors for Fort Greely in Alaska and four for Vandenberg Air Force Base in California as part of the first phase of its missile defense system for the 2004 fiscal year. The 2005 budget allows for ten more interceptors in Alaska. Shortly afterwards, the US will deploy a sea-based anti-missile system capable of protecting allies and American troop deployments abroad. Negotiations are currently underway about radar sites and possible defense missile defense emplacements with several European countries.

India and Pakistan continue with their nuclear weapons program, without adhering to a restrictive global agreement. The Clinton Administration tried to bring both countries into the fold of the non-proliferation regime. The recently published memoirs of Mr. Strobe Talbott, Clinton Administration representative in the arms control negotiations, clearly reveal that the US failed to achieve any of its non-proliferation and arms control objectives vis-à-vis India. Moreover, the Bush Administration has not been interested in maintaining the Cold War arms control framework and not looked at South Asia from the old lens of non-proliferation. Instead, it has cultivated both India and Pakistan on the basis of new global realities. India and the US have signed the “Next Steps in Strategic Partnership” agreement that paves the way for mutual cooperation in areas of civilian nuclear activities, civilian space programs, high-technology trade as well as a dialogue on missile defense. Recently, the US, enhanced its nuclear cooperation with India by lifting sanctions against Indian Space Research Organization and by doing so, modified its export licensing policies for a non-NPT signatory like India.

All this occurred even as compliance with the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) by all its members remained questionable. The Wassenaar agreement that replaced previous controls directed at depriving Communist countries of Western military technology has proven more difficult to enforce. It is aimed not only at the former Soviet states but also those states whose threatening nature the industrialized signatories of Wassenaar disagree. China, an emerging military power, is a participant in few arms control agreements and its record of adhering to promises in the realm of arms control is not terribly impressive.

Significant new challenges also have emerged in recent months. Iran seems to be within reach of mastering nuclear weapons production technology. While the US tackled fictitious weapons of mass destruction of Iraq, Iran moved ahead with its secret nuclear program under the guise of electricity production. It rejected a call by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to freeze all its uranium enrichment programs and threatened to drop out of the NPT if the case was taken to the UN Security Council. It argued that the NPT gives it a right to develop peaceful nuclear programs, and that’s exactly what it is doing. Despite a recent nuclear accord between the European Countries and Iran in which Iran agreed to voluntarily suspend its uranium enrichment activities temporarily, the US remains highly suspicious of Iranian motives. 

Brazil has also upped its nuclear ante. It is believed to be enriching uranium by using centrifuge cascades. This might be the beginning of the end of the 1967 Tlatelolco treaty that made South America a nuclear free zone. The Brazilian government blocked portions of the requisite IAEA inspections of a uranium enrichment plant in Resende. This generated a lot of international concern. There is also a fear that Brazil’s intransigence might encourage Argentina which has significantly much more indigenous nuclear technology than many other aspiring states.

Meanwhile, North Korea happily continues the façade of negotiations in order to buy time to reprocess its plutonium into several nuclear bombs. While the US has insisted on group discussions that include Russia, China, Japan, South Korea along with North Korea and the US, the talks seem to be going nowhere. There are indications that North Korea may already have assembled test devices. In a surprising development, South Korea acknowledged that its scientists had secretly enriched uranium and extracted a small amount of plutonium during a 1982 research experiment. Uranium was also secretly enriched in 2000 to nearly bomb grade levels, and the other experiment was optimized to produce bomb-grade plutonium.

Even as the international community tries to come to terms with these developments, the US conducts research on more usable nuclear weapons and Russia declared its intention to conduct more nuclear tests to strengthen its deterrent. The non-state actors further muddy the nuclear waters as chillingly demonstrated by the discovery of the worldwide nuclear black-market run by A.Q. Khan. The global arms control regime has so far been a rather impotent observer of these developments with no significant influence on the course of events.

Is the failure of the arms control regime surprising? Or is it that all arms control must fail. If arms control is needed in a strategic relationship because the states in question might go to war, then it will be impractical for that very reason of need. However, if arms control should prove to be available, it will be irrelevant. This has been called the arms control paradox. The record of Cold War shows that the US and the former Soviet Union have been equally responsible for reneging on their arms control promises. Not only did both of them attempt to gain nuclear superiority during the Cold War despite a plethora of arms control agreements, but also were equally responsible for encouraging proliferation. As the great powers try to maximize their share of power, their interests inevitably come into conflict with the arms control and this causes arms control agreements to unravel.

Disenchantment with arms control has been growing since 1980s. After a brief period of détente in the1970s, the two superpowers resumed their antagonism. This affected all the arms control measures agreed to during the détente. The signing of a plethora of arms control agreements during the détente was seen as a success of arms control rather than a reflection of the relaxation of tensions. Arms control was credited with maintaining strategic stability and creating norms of international behavior. Despite this fact, the CTBT, one of the most in-depth agreements in terms of details of provisions, verification measures, and regime strengthening, was rejected by the US even though it faced no great power as a rival in the near term. This is significant because if even one of the strongest arms control measures is not deemed worthy of acceptance, then there is a problem with the very idea of arms control rather than its specific provisions.

In the post-Cold War era this tendency has been more prominent. There have been numerous proposals for universal disarmament without any real evaluation of the impact on international security. There are significant strategic, political and technical obstacles to nuclear disarmament. Countries facing formidable national security obstacles will be disinclined to give up their nuclear weapons so long as the international system retains its anarchic nature. Also, there is a perception in some countries that nuclear weapons enhance their status in the international system. While this might not be the case so long as the nuclear weapon states cling to obscenely huge nuclear arsenals, it would be difficult to convince otherwise. Furthermore, the problem remains of how to convince states that the huge amounts of weapons-grade fissile material would not be used by any state after disarmament. An international agency cannot make countries hedge their bets against future uncertainty in international politics.

Even if these obstacles can be overcome, the larger question remains: is universal disarmament desirable? It may seem odd, but the huge nuclear stockpiles during the Cold War maintained international stability. Indeed, it was also important in the rather slow rate of nuclear proliferation since their huge arsenals allowed the two superpowers to provide extended deterrence to their client states, and reducing the value of nuclear weapons

In the post-Cold War international system, universal nuclear disarmament can be highly destabilizing, as the nuclear threat has transformed with greater proliferation and access to nuclear technology. The probability of the use of nuclear weapons may increase manifold as conventional wars may rapidly transform into nuclear wars by the losing side. In the absence of a third power capability to force restraint the situation might deteriorate into a nuclear exchange. Therefore, any arms control or disarmament measure needs to be evaluated on the basis of its impact on international stability as opposed to the perceived impetus it provided in creating a utopian international society of states.

However, this does not justify the status quo. Obsolete ideas about the value of massive nuclear arsenals need to be discarded by the policymakers in the US and Russia, and a heightened awareness about the dangers of unauthorized attacks and nuclear proliferation needs to be developed. Bold steps to reduce nuclear inventories to much lower levels would enhance American and Russian national security along with international peace. In fact, it has been recommended that the US and Russia should adopt minimum deterrence strategies and force structures containing 200-500 weapons each.

Meanwhile, new issues are changing the global strategic landscape. There is a possibility that the US pursuit of Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) combined with the reductions in the Russian nuclear arsenal might be a recipe for nuclear instability. Russia will be forced to adopt a more offensive nuclear posture in order to neutralize the advantages of a BMD. The Chinese reaction to the American BMD remains unknown. Nonetheless China continues its plans for military modernization. How this affects the US-China relationship and impacts China's immediate neighborhood will also determine the future of international stability.

The evidence overwhelmingly suggests that great power attempts by great powers have at best been useless and at worst can be highly destabilizing. However, world powers have deftly used various arms control provisions to constrain the strategic autonomy of other states in the international system. Indian nuclear tests were the first direct challenge to the great powers and the result has been a complete overhaul of the international security environment. The demise of the international arms control is a small part of that overhaul. India has always been dissatisfied with the global non-proliferation and arms control regime because it constrained autonomy to make foreign policy decisions as dictated by national interests. India argued that an inequitable regime that gave only a few countries the permanent right to nuclear weapons, and denied others this right was inherently unstable. There are reasons for India to feel vindicated by its long-held stance on these issues. Today, as the global arms control regime crumbles under the weight of its own contradictions, India can rightfully claim that it was one of the first states to draw the attention of the world community to these challenges.

A radically new global security architecture is needed to tackle the emerging problem of proliferation and terrorism. The old security structure has failed and it is time this gets recognized if the world hopes to tackle the emerging challenges. India along with older nuclear powers should rise to the challenge and offer ideas on a new framework for international security that is suitable for the 21st century. Typically, world powers not only challenge the status-quo that is inimical to their interests but also provide responsible alternatives to managing the challenges facing the globe. It is time for India to respond to its rising global profile.

The writer is a Research Fellow at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana (USA).

India’s Foreign Policy Challenges: Today and Beyond


The years 1989 – 1991 were a watershed in the history of the 20th century. In a series of swift and stunning events, the USSR and its proxy regimes in Eastern Europe collapsed. Grass roots revolts by disaffected youth were seen in both Europe and Asia as evidenced by the ceremonies at the collapse of Berlin Wall, Tiananmen Square, and Myanmar. The ideological struggle between capitalism and communism melted and paved the way for globalization. The world previously polarized by an ideological struggle rapidly morphed into economic blocs. ASEAN, a bulwark against the spread of communism in Southeast Asia, rearranged to include Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

In the post Cold War era, two main and often opposing trends emerged. The first was a willingness of the international community, particularly the US to play a mediating role in settling conflicts from Northern Ireland to East Timor. Associated with this trend was the break up of larger countries into smaller nations of Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States of the erstwhile USSR. Simultaneously, neighboring states realized the benefits of economic interdependence coalesced into trading blocs. Among the most notable groupings are NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), European Union, and ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations). India in the early 90’s seemed ill suited to cope with the changes in the global environment. It was largely dependent on the former Soviet Union for military equipment and spares. India’s economy was highly regulated and centrally controlled and its ties with the US remained limited. 

During the late 80’s and the 1990’s, the end of the Cold War heralded realignment in global relations. India engaged new friends, maintained steadfast contact with old friends, and an ever watchful eye over enemies. India started its journey of economic liberalization, and the Gujral doctrine dampened hegemonic fears among neighbors. India extended its influence into the distant neighborhoods of Southeast Asia and the Middle East. The tenure of Prime Minister Rao witnessed burgeoning economic and political relations. Astute foreign policy laid the cornerstone in the foundation of India’s post Cold War foreign policy, and subsequent administrations advanced this agenda.

India established economic and diplomatic relations with Israel and deepened ties with the Arab states. India’s economic engagement of ASEAN continued at a steadfast rate throughout the 1990’s. Relations with the US gradually thawed and even blossomed. Overall, the pre-Cold War Indo – US ties were held hostage to the larger Cold War agenda and to US-Pakistan relations. The 1980’s brought about a rapprochement in Indo – US ties due to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, India’s desire to open its economy, and clandestine Pakistani acquisition of nuclear weapons. The post Cold War era reduced the confinements of the past, and new administrations in both countries sought to increase ties. The Clinton administration’s simple message “it’s the economy stupid” allowed both governments to set aside some past disagreements and focus on mutual economic growth. Relations with Russia continued to mature and involved a long standing multidimensional approach involving security, military, and economic links. 

Despite the upswing in India’s global contacts and the post Cold War era bonhomie, Pakistan remained a sore point due to its obduracy in Kashmir and support of cross border terrorism. The Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan allowed Pakistan to redirect trained mercenaries towards Kashmir in order to achieve long sought goals. As tensions between India and Pakistan flared over various reasons, President Clinton repeatedly offered unsolicited American services and at one time even asked China to play a role. Indian policy treaded a difficult course of exposing Pakistan’s role in cross border terrorism. At the same time it avoided internationalizing the Kashmir issue and invite serious meddling. Internationalization would play into Pakistani hands of devaluing the bilateral Simla Agreement. One notable event borne out of over zealous efforts at peacemaking was the Robin Raphel fiasco. It inadvertently questioned the legitimacy of the Indian Union and threatened burgeoning Indo – US ties. India’s diplomats successfully raised objections and prevented further carelessness by the Clinton Administration.

India’s engagement of Southeast Asia was dubbed as “Look East Policy.” India’s economic engagement of ASEAN continued at a steadfast rate throughout the 1990’s and reaped dividends in the form of trade agreements, increased contact between people, and the establishment of sub-regional grouping such as BIMSTEC (Bangladesh India Myanmar Sri Lanka Thailand Economic Council) and GMC (Ganga Mekong Cooperative). These groups worked towards free trade agreements, common development of infrastructure, and integration of national economies into the global economy. In addition to an economic dimension, India’s engagement was motivated by strategic reasons. China’s economic and military interaction would restrict India’s role in Southeast Asia. India capitalized on ASEAN’s concern about Chinese influence to bolster its position. India’s northeast region would serve as a launch pad for economic interaction and revitalize an ailing portion of the country. India’s engagement of Myanmar despite significant Chinese influence indicated broad goals of engaging neighbors on economic and strategic terms. Indo – Myanmar ties formed the first and critical step in India – Southeast Asia ties while improving security in the Northeast region and paving the way for future economic development. 

In a stunning move India carried out three nuclear tests on May 11, 1998. As the Clinton administration preached nuclear morality, India retorted with an additional 2 tests on May 13, 1998. India “gate crashed” into the exclusive nuclear club. Despite bravado about a de-nuclearizing India from a non proliferation regime in Washington the world accepted India as a nuclear reality. The usually economically savvy Clinton administration sought to replace incentives with economic sanctions in order to punish India. In retrospect, the economic sanctions overwhelmingly failed. The dialogue between India and the US resulted in a lengthy exchange on mutual security situations. India voluntarily agreed to the principle of the NPT (Non Proliferation Treaty) as a way of calming American apprehensions. Pakistan soon retorted to India’s tests. Despite disclosed nuclear capability, a conflagration between India and Pakistan in the spring of 1999 did not escalate to a nuclear exchange. Furthermore, it amply demonstrated the success of Indian policy and marginalized Pakistan for promoting instability. On the other hand, the Kargil imbroglio served as a convenient way for the West to continue the Indo – Pak dyad to encompass nuclear tensions. The region was dubbed the most dangerous place in the world and serve as a vehicle for numerous peace making attempts and a Presidential visit. 

The fears of the most dangerous place in the world were confirmed in an unimaginable way on September 2001 as terrorists struck the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The Taliban regime in Afghanistan gave sanctuary to Osama bin Laden, while Pakistan obstructed attempts to capture him. After the 9-11 attacks, Pakistan was forced to officially turn against the Taliban and aid US efforts. India was driven by economic and strategic compulsions. It. offered significant aid to the US in the initial phase of the War on Terror. According to India, the 9-11 attack sharply focused attention on Pakistan’s sponsorship of terror. Additionally, due to strong economic linkages any downturn in the US economy would adversely impact Indian economic growth and hurt Indian Diaspora in the region. The presence of American military personnel and long term interests in Afghanistan irrevocably changed the security situation for India. Pakistan’s overt cross border terrorism would be checked, and the reversal of the Taliban reduced training camps for future jihadis. On the other, Pakistan secured by American interests would resort to adventurism against India without fear of retaliation as evidenced by December 2001 attack on the Indian parliament. In the post 9-11 scenario, India benefited from the removal of the Taliban regime, established diplomatic and economic linkages with Afghanistan, and furthered ties to Central Asian neighbors. India desires a stable Afghanistan that retards the growth of fundamentalist forces and allows India access to the region’s trade and energy commodity. The American engagement of Pakistan is a double edged sword, on one hand it limited Pakistan’s ability to spread the nuisance of terrorism, but it resulted in military benefits that could be potentially directed against India. 

Challenges Ahead

During the Bush administration, Indo – US ties acquired a security dimension with regular military exercises and limited access to civilian and military technology. Thinkers in both governments sought to make the two countries “natural allies” and often touted that India could play a pivotal role in America’s Asia policy in the new century. Despite the rhetoric, there are numerous issues of divergence such as American unilateralism, support of Pakistan’s regime that fosters terrorism against India, and future containment of China and Iran. If these points of divergence are not discussed or mutually resolved will unravel ties and threaten to undercut the momentum of Indo – US relations. Furthermore, the US must quietly bury the India – Pakistan dyad, the staple of many public announcements. Any ongoing use of the dyad will seek to accentuate the ridiculous because a reasonable comparison between the countries cannot exist. 

Nonetheless, one must note several significant points of convergence such as economic development, balance of power in Asia, stemming of terrorism and policy with regard to Afghanistan. Stability in Afghanistan forms the pivot of India’s political, economic and strategic policy in Central Asia. Any constraints on Indian policy in the region will ease the path of fundamentalist influence. Trends such as the resurgent Taliban and marginalization of minority groups are worrisome as it could unravel the progress of the past 3 years. The success of a representative government in Afghanistan and freedom from the Taliban keeps fundamentalist forces at bay in the region and promotes stability in Central Asia. The establishment of intercultural contacts, strong diplomatic interaction, and aid in the form of food and vehicles are meant to not only promote good will and help a troubled neighbor, but also are a stepping stone to mutually lucrative trade corridor extending into the interior of Asia. 

Iran forms the second pillar of India’s engagement in the region. It diversifies India’s engagement of the Islamic world and bypasses Pakistan. American action against Iran will affect India’s policy in Central Asia, strengthen the factors of instability but also could widen the area of instability from Iraq to Afghanistan and promote Islamic fundamentalism. 

The Pakistani government’s continued stubbornness poses a strong challenge to India’s foreign policy. Pakistan’s “invader” mindset is evident from non-compliance with past treaties, support of cross border terrorism, view of historical events and the names of its missiles. It is simplistic to view Pakistan as a monolith. In actuality, Pakistan has a sizeable amount of diversity across ethnic groups, religious sects, and political ideology. Unfortunately, such diversity is not represented in its military dominated government. Moderate factions are often held at bay by the government’s backing of fundamentalist forces and its promotion of a paranoid world view to its populous. Suppression both ethnic and political diversity has lead to numerous dissident factions seeking regional autonomy or a change of government. Despite a façade to the contrary, the Pakistani government shows no sign of significant or lasting change regarding Islamic fundamentalism which threatens the region and beyond. American policies based on encouraging Pakistan to restrain zealots, cooperate in capturing Osama bin Laden, and maintain stability in Afghanistan is very limited. Pakistan’s incorrigible behavior is the very problem. Pakistan misdirects American aid and furthers the very bothersome habits it is designed to eradicate. In the long term, Pakistan is a moribund nation, and American realization of this reality by preparation of contingency plans to deal with the consequences would provide true security in the region. 

India faces challenges on its eastern flank. Nepal’s Maoist movement continues to ravage the country despite the involvement of the Nepali army. Borne out of the frustration of a disenfranchised population, it continues to displace government influence. Several truces have been broken, and the onslaughts of Maoist attacks on Nepali forces and on Katmandu continue at an unabated pace. The insurgency must be tackled with a multi-modal that includes military, social and economic means designed to parch the support for the Maoists. Maoist ties to anti-monarchy forces in Bhutan, and terrorist groups in India’s Northeast provide regional enemies with a convenient way to meddle in India’s security matters. Bangladesh’s ongoing struggle, thirty years after a hard won independence, to establish a confident national identity blending Bangla nationalism and Islam will consume resources, affect its interactions with neighbors, and cause internal upheaval. The core problem in India – Bangladesh relations is Bangladesh’s insecurity over its identity which manifests a paranoid suspicion of a larger and more powerful neighbor. Bangladesh often rivals Pakistan in its stubbornness, and its refusal to economically integrate with India despite mutual benefits. 

China continues to play dual twin roles of engaging India while simultaneously backing Pakistan and other smaller neighbors acquire military items. Ties have historically been soured due to 1962 war, support of various Northeast terrorist groups and role in Pakistan’s clandestine nuclear program. Prime Minister Vajpayee’s visit to engage civilian Chinese leadership may bear fruit with cooperation in technology, tourism, and increased contacts. China’s dual strategy towards India can best be seen in the engagement during Prime Minister Vajpayee’s state visit and subsequent reports of Chinese army entry into Indian territory. Various factions within the Chinese government have individual interests; some seek to compete with India while others favor cooperation. The current trend in Sino – Indian relations will likely continue with cooperation on an economic front and competition on a strategic front. Southeast Asia has responded to India initiatives and has proposed closer economic and military cooperation. ASEAN realizes its position between India and China and seek to promote ties with both for their benefit. This region may become the hotly contested area between ascendant India and China because of its ethnic mix, historical background, and economic. 

Rapid economic growth is fueled by readily available energy. Unsurprisingly energy has become major focus of policy both internal and external. Books written by government officials now mention energy security as a part of national security. India has invested in a multilateral strategy to gain energy. It involved expansion of indigenous energy as well as involvement in foreign projects. India has explored oil and natural gas options in Nigeria, Sudan and Russia. Closer to home, energy deals with Iran, Bhutan, and Myanmar are afoot. Energy related projects such as the pipeline across Pakistan into India and another natural gas pipeline from Bangladesh to India seem promising despite occasional flare ups in tension. In the coming decades, energy policy will form an increasingly important component in India’s foreign policy and national security perceptions. 

Since Independence, India has struggled to maintain a balanced place in the world as an old civilization and a new nation in a hostile neighborhood. It avoided Cold War entanglements as much as possible while plotting an independent course. It championed the cause of developing nations. India’s foreign policy rose to the challenge posed by the end of the Cold War. Though the initial outlook in the early 1990’s seemed bleak, the post-Cold War era presented a unique opportunity to engage countries based on strategic and economic grounds. Overall, the first decade of the post Cold War era was a difficult time as foreign policy often tilted to compensate for previous leanings. Overtime, India’s policy has matured into a balanced engagement of the major powers, and strategically important regions. India must continue to engage while avoiding entanglements. Its alliances must be limited by mutual goals, and not be forced to serve as a wedge in larger rivalries. Foreign policy must tread a focused path between advancing long term goals and agile enough to respond to abrupt changes. In the coming decade, India’s foreign policy will aid in choosing allies, forming partnerships based on mutual interests, and in fending off old and new enemies. The issues of international terrorism, Islamic fundamentalism, competition for a sphere of influence and acquisition of energy will dominate India’s policy in the foreseeable future. India’s policy should be grounded in present concerns as well as historical dialectics; a patchwork combining the legacy of an ancient civilization, security imperatives of the Raj and its importance as a cultural and commercial crossroad.

India and the Globalization of Drugs Regime

India and the Globalization of the Drugs Regime

T. Raghavan Organized criminal enterprise has a history as long as that of human civilization. However, recently with increasing trade and communications between different regions of the world, criminal enterprises morphed from purely local organizations into organizations that transcend national boundaries. The growth of international criminal cartels represents the more seamy side of the globalization. International criminal cartels typically take advantage of loopholes in trade laws, and of economic policy in various nations. For example, the mainstay of Indian mafia organizations in the past was gold smuggling from foreign countries. Indian tax policies and other curbs made the illegal gold importing a profitable venture. Similarly, Italian mafias grew in power in the United States during the era of prohibition as alcohol and gambling were banned.

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Military-Industrial Complex: Crafting A Winning Strategy

Surrounded with security threats to its land frontiers since Independence and bedeviled with a paucity of funds, Indian defense industries for many decades plodded along alone striving for self-sufficiency as the western countries were loathe to part with the latest equipment or share their technology. The silver lining in this bleak situation turned out to be Soviet Union, which did not consider India strategically hostile and was willing to accept payments in rupees. However, in the unfolding geo-political scenario, besides Russia, countries like France, Israel, Britain, and America, each with well-established military-industrial complexes are keen to join hands with India to co-develop, co-produce and co-market defense equipment.

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Editor Notes: In Memoriam

In Memoriam

“Weapons do not cleave this self, fire does not burn him; waters do not make him wet, nor does the wind make him dry.”

“He is uncleavable, He cannot be burnt, He can neither be wetted nor dried. He is eternal, all-pervading, unchanging and immovable, He is the same forever.”

“He is said to be unmanifest, unthinkable, and unchanging. Therefore, knowing him as such, thou shouldst not grieve.”

- Srimad Bhagavad Gita 

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Volume 1 Issue 1 (2004)

Challenging Transitions

(Volume 1(1) October 2004)


  • Challenging Transitions


    Cold be heart and hand and bone. And cold be travelers far from home.

    They do not see what lies ahead when sun has failed and moon is dead.” - Gollum, Lord of the Rings; The Two Towers

    The Afghanistan elections bring with them a turning point in the region.  In the past 3 years Afghanistan has witnessed a dramatic change from the reversal of the Taliban, burst of optimism to the recent resurgence of the Taliban and the ebbing of jubilation.  Over the past few months, law and order has become an alarmingly serious problem with violence spreading to the Northern and Western regions of the country.  President Karzai has a narrow support base even among Pashtuns and competes with the resurgent Taliban.  Outside of Pashtun regions Karzai’s policies seem to evoke anger, such as the destruction reeked on the UN compound in Herat because of the dismissal of Ismail Khan and anger among the Tajiks for not picking former Defense Minister Fahim as his running mate and leading to the candidacy of his main challenger Younus Qanooni. (more).

  • A Revolution in the Indian Mindset

    Capt. (r) Bharat Verma

    The annual conclave of Army Commanders slated for end-October at Delhi will adopt a new war-fighting doctrine called “Cold Start”. It calls for rapid deployment of Integrated Battle Groups to conduct high-intensity offensive operations. Entirely dependent on Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) to achieve limited political objectives against an adversary, the doctrine fails to answer how the generals propose to overcome the inherent weakness in our politico-military decision making apparatus that is riddled with defensive and timid mindset. It is incapable of such audacious employment of military power. (more)
  • US and Iran at loggerheads: India's role in rapprochement

    Harsh V. Pant

    Iran is once again at the center of the American foreign policy debate. The final report of the commission investigating the September 11, 2001 attacks unearthed evidence regarding the longstanding relationship between Al Qaeda and Iran, especially the fact that Iran allowed at least eight of the nineteen hijackers to cross over from Afghanistan the year before 9/11 attacks without putting a stamp on their passports. Though the CIA has made it clear that there is no conclusive proof of a connection between Iran and 9/11 attacks, pressure is mounting on the Bush Administration to clearly enunciate an Iran policy. Many conservatives are calling for a more aggressive policy of trying to bring about a regime change in Tehran; a recent report from the highly influential Council on Foreign Relations argues that it is in the interest of the US to undertake a “selective political engagement” with the current regime in Iran rather than waiting for its downfall. (more)

  • Indicators of Terrorist Attacks

    Anoop Chengara

    Terrorist attacks in the world over the past five years have become more organized, widespread, more frequent and deadly. Their impact on society is so severe that it has become imperative to predict and disrupt terrorist strikes. Successful terrorist strikes share several common features – meticulous long-term planning, careful target selection, access to means of destruction, and efficient logistics support. Evidence of such preparations should alert law enforcement to an impending event. At Bharat Rakshak Forum, a thread was dedicated to listing possible indicators of a terrorist attack. (more)

    (Executive Summary, ContentsReferences and Footnotes, PDF)

  • Dispatch From Afghanistan

    Laxman Bahroo

    The Loya Jirga and the subsequent ratification of the Afghan constitution heralded the promise of nationhood. However, the events of the past year have changed the glimmer of hope to despair. The political, regional and ethnic divide has widened due to the actions of the Taliban and the government. Violence has made further inroads into Pashtun areas and the Northern regions of the country. Afghanistan lurches from one violent event to another. Newspaper articles are replete with talks of broken promises, betrayal and helplessness. (more)

    (Executive Summary, ContentsReferences and Footnotes, PDF)

  • The Incredible Legend of Al Qaida

    Narayanan Komerath

    “The perpetrator of the September 11 attacks was not a nation-state but an organization not formally affiliated with any particular country and whose members were mostly non-Americans”.

    This basic assumption sets the context for a 400-page report. prepared by an august panel of US technology leaders on “Making the Nation Safer – The Role of Science and Technology in Countering Terrorism”. Most public writings in the U.S. and Britain go further in identifying this perpetrator as “Al Qaeda” (a/k/a Al Qaida). An exploration of these assumptions is an essential prelude to examining the models of the terrorist threat, which derive thence. The choice of model appears to be as significant to the planning to counter terrorism, as the consequences of guessing wrong are catastrophic. (more)

    (Executive Summary,Contents, References and Footnotes, PDF)

  • Converting Myth into History; Foggy Bottom Style

    Dr. M. D. Nalapat


    ENGAGING INDIA: Diplomacy,Democracy and the Bomb( Strobe Talbott. Brookings Institution Press)


    During the eight years when William Jefferson Clinton was President of the United States, both Communist China as well as the Wahabbist extremism stereotyped by Osama bin Laden grew exponentially in power. If in 1989 the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) was in the doghouse thanks to its suppression of the democracy movement, just a few weeks into his term, Bill Clinton was signaling to Beijing that he was eager to co-opt the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) as a strategic partner. At the same time, the Wahabbi establishment that controls Saudi Arabia was cosseted, even being given the right to decide on who among the Muslim community would be selected as chaplains in the US armed forces. From Kosovo to Kashmir, "freedom fighters" were viewed with sympathy and were often given help, sometimes material, or at the least," moral". (more)

  • Was late medieval India ready for a revolution in military affairs? 

    Airavat Singh

    In 1683 the Ottoman Turks laid siege to the European city of Vienna. Their defeat there began a process that finally unraveled the massive empire straddling West Asia and South-East Europe. While the European powers had completely overhauled their military formations over the past century, the Ottomans still relied on cavalry and imported their advanced weaponry from Europe. The steady improvements in infantry were showcased later on by the terrible line-attack of Frederick of Prussia, and still later by the invincible infantry columns of Napoleon. Why didn’t things change in the Indian sub-continent in this same period? After all, firearms had been known to Indians right about the same time as they were to the rest of the civilized world. Moreover large parts of India were not breeding grounds for horses; it is reasonable to assume that people inhabiting those regions would be proficient in infantry warfare. The regions east of the River Ganga and south of the River Krishna are marked by excessive humidity and thick growth of forests—they lack the vast open grasslands that sustained horse-breeding in the medieval era. The inhabitants of these lands—whether Telegus, Berads, or Purbias—did impact the evolution of infantry warfare; but only as willing recruits to battalions organized and led by European officers. Why was it so? Did the superiority of organized infantry over cavalry only become apparent when Europeans were at the head? Were there no occasions in the past when indigenous bodies of infantry had fought off or even defeated superior cavalry forces? (more

    (Executive Summary, Contents, References and Footnotes, PDF)

  • Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan

    Gayatri Srinivasan

    The peaceful warrior who redefined Islam, Pakhtoonwa and Non violence and built a foundation with these three pillars. This is the story of a warrior who lived true to his principles till the day he died. I hope to tell  you about the gentleness and patience of Pathans, who chose to follow Islam in the peaceful way preached by Prophet. Yes, you read it right. In this age, it might seem a paradox, at the very least, an oxymoron to many.  But  it will be proved true from the life of this towering personality and the people who followed him through colonial rule and after. Our independence is much more than non violent protests, that gave us  gradual victory. What happened, in actuality to the people, spanning entire undivided India? Not every region got freedom, liberty and justice. (more)
  • “Catalyst for peace, harmony and tranquility…”

    Capt. (r) Bharat Verma

    In an exclusive interview, the Chief of the Naval Staff, Admiral Arun Prakash, PVSM, AVSM, VrC, VSM, ADC, shared his perceptions about the Indian Navy with Bharat Verma, Editor, Indian Defence Review. (more)

  • Central Asia Snapshots

    Laxman Bahroo and J. L. Khayyam Coelho

    Central Asia, the perennial penumbra of empires, has once again gained importance and captured world headlines.  The land of war-like Turcomans, ancient cultural centers, the lucrative Silk Road, and the Great Game briefly fell into obscurity as world wars and ideological struggle preoccupied global consciousness.  In the post Cold War era, and especially the post 9-11 era, Central Asia has reacquired its lost pre-eminence.  Strategically bordering the major regions of Asia, the Russian Federation, China, Indian Subcontinent and the Middle East, it has become the destination of choice for regional and global powers seeking to expand their influence. (more)    

Bharat Rakshak MONITOR


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