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India's Security Policy in the Post-Cold War Era

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  • April 30, 2010
    Fellows' Seminar
    Only by Invitation
    1030 to 1300 hrs

    Chair: Dr. Thomas Mathew
    External Discussants: Ambassador S. K. Bhutani and Brig. (Retd.) Gurmeet Kanwal
    Internal Discussants: Prof. P. Stobdan and Brig. Raj Shukla

    At the very outset of his presentation, Dr. Kalyanaraman argued that like any other nation state, the primary task of India’s security policy has been the structuring of an international environment conducive for development within and the pursuit of autonomy without. It is in this context that he identified, as the backdrop to his paper, the three phases of India’s approach to structuring such an environment:

    • The first phase, which lasted from the day India achieved independence to the 1962 war which China imposed on India, was marked by the idea of promoting peace for generating security. However, India’s efforts to resolve conflicts through diplomatic means failed to yield results. In Dr. Kalyanaraman’s words “The policy of promoting peace to gain security failed to gain traction in a world dominated by security dilemmas and national, ideological and power rivalries. A telling blow was delivered to this policy by the war that China imposed on India in 1962”. In the years that followed, India made a course-correction by building up military and technological capabilities as also signing a security pact with the USSR.
    • The latest phase, marked by the altered realities of the end of Cold War, gave India a chance to renew its engagements with the major powers of the world as well as with key countries in its extended Asian neighbourhood. Dr. Kalyanaraman identified four features of the post-Cold War geopolitical situation and discussed how India has, during these years, sought to position itself.
      • The security situation in Afghanistan has changed beyond recognition in the past two decades. Due to a mix of factors including the Soviet withdrawal, rise of Taliban, the 9/11 attacks on the US, and Pakistan’s regional ambitions, India has been continually seeking to position itself in that country. Dr. Kalyanaraman opined, “India seems to have begun to recalibrate its policy by reaching out to Iran and Russia…”
      • The second feature of the post Cold War geopolitical map of Asia is the consolidation of American influence in West Asia especially after the 1991 Gulf War. The subsequent push given to the peace process in Palestine had the beneficial impact of enabling India to fully engage Israel. In addition, India has been engaging countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Qatar.
      • In the face of the rise of China, “India has initiated a series of initiatives to cater for the Chinese challenge. The Indian navy has stepped up its deployments throughout the Asia-Pacific and has been regularly participating in bilateral and multilateral exercises.”
      • Lastly, India’s engagement with the major powers has strengthened to a great extent and a self-assured India has begun to adopt a more pragmatic approach to international security issues. For their part major world capitals have also begun to recalibrate their policies in the light of the new reality of India’s greater economic and military-nuclear prowess.

    Points of Discussion:

    • There are nuances to the moralistic approach of India’s foreign policy during the Nehru years.
    • India’s engagement with the major powers needs greater attention.
    • A gradation of India’s engagements/strategic partnerships with countries across the world is required since one possibly cannot compare India’s engagement with the United States and with Seychelles, for instance.

    Report prepared by Rahul Mishra, Research Assistant at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi.