The New Arthashastra: A Security Strategy For India
The New Arthashastra: A Security Strategy for India comprehensively revisits Kautilya’s Arthashastra through perspectives focusing on statecraft and statesmanship, diplomacy, governance, economic and trade policies, and military strategy. War and peace are explored as issues inseparable from social welfare and society more broadly.
This pioneering effort by Brig (Retd) Gurmeet Kanwal blazes a comprehensive new trail by drawing upon the best experts and former authorities in their respective fields to analyse the strengths, inadequacies, and imperatives of India’s readiness for its rise to meet not just its own emerging challenges, but more importantly, expectations of a becoming a regional or global player or partner.
The book begins with Gautam Sen’s identification of the conceptual underpinnings of a national security strategy. Gen VP Malik then traverses the domain of defence policy and national security management and leads the reader to a possible outline for a national security strategy necessarily focused on India’s role as a regional power.
Drawing on global experiences, another chapter brings into focus a comprehensive perspective on strategies and defence policies of major countries such as the US, UK, Germany, as well as the NATO alliance and the west in general, to enrich India’s leaders and policymakers with this enormous insight. A review of two significant periods, the USSR and Russia through the Putin era, as well as Russia's military doctrine and later China’s defence policy, present the challenges encountered by these countries.
India’s emerging threat environment, including compulsion and imperatives from the changing dynamics of power and global order, encompass military challenges. China is likely to remain the long-term challenge and Pakistan a receding threat, but China-Pakistan collusion has always raised the gravest concerns. Issues related to Afghanistan such as increasing sub-conventional threats from within and outside the country are enunciated.
India’s national objectives have evolved out of multifaceted components of ‘Comprehensive National Power’ that connect defence and diplomacy. In prime focus among these objectives are economic development, technology, political and social stability, capacity building for current and future threats, and the importance of indigenous development for defence. The author cautions against any misdirection or escalation that would threaten the onset of an arms race in the region.
The book recapitulates the history and adoption of non-alignment policy and its impact on India’s foreign policy as well as the isolation of India’s military. India’s return to engagement, initially slow after the Cold War, thereafter witnessed a period of active military-diplomatic overtures and broadening of arms procurement from Russia towards Israel and the US.
Several major challenges arise from political and organisational inadequacies such as ambiguity in security structures, limited force projection capacity, and the absence of an assertive and meaningful military component in foreign policy due to the country’s dated military hardware.
Nuances and complexities of India’s nuclear doctrine such as credible minimum deterrence, no first-use policy, capability enhancement, and political will are explicitly discussed, improving the reader’s clarity and comprehension. Recommendations focus on increased missile capability, such as deployment of Ballistic Missile Defence systems for protection of retaliatory assets and development of MIRV missiles.
The chapter on management of external threats highlights the need for resolution of territorial disputes and also the imperative to manage China-Pakistan collusion. With respect to China’s quest to dominate Asia and managing Pakistan-China collusion, the author reiterates the need for a strategy based on a strong navy, as well as closer military ties with the US and ASEAN countries in the South China Sea. Strategic autonomy and self-reliance are deemed necessary to remain the core strengths of India’s foreign policy, with pragmatism guiding India's policies with Iran, West Asia, and the Central Asian republics.
The chapter on ‘The Counter-Proxy War Strategy in Jammu and Kashmir’ covers a vast canvas of the deteriorating situation over time and the challenges that confront the Indian government today. Pakistan’s future strategy and India’s response options, and also the motivations and actions of Pakistan’s ‘deep state’, have been amplified in detail. However, for success in this stalemated environment, a paradigm shift in India's approach and strategy has been repeatedly identified as imperative, for which specific recommendations could have given a clearer direction.
Chapters on intelligence, internal security, financial support, India’s space programme, cyber security, defence research and development strategy, economic warfare, energy security and defence production address important, intricate, and complex issues requiring very detailed comprehension by those in charge at ministerial and other bureaucratic levels. The challenges in these domains are serious when seen in relation to adversaries and require early capacity building.
However, recommendations from domain experts to guide India’s national security strategy should have been more forward-looking and specific in order to cover the voids in future strategies in research and development, the space programme, cyber security, defence production, and economic warfare.
In the chapter on ‘Guiding Contours for National Strategy’, the lack of a grand strategy, the need for organisational design and structures, and also of a worldview of resurgent India are in sharp focus. The suggested contours for a grand strategy must traverse a comprehensive spectrum from conceptualisation to delivery and transformation. Calibration of force and diplomacy emerge from this chapter as key imperatives to meet evolving strategic challenges.
In the concluding chapter, the author-editor pragmatically steers the course of analysis by beginning with discussion of Carl von Clausewitz’s conceptualisation of strategic ‘ends’, ‘ways’, and ‘means’, and proceeds to tie together essential insights from preceding chapters to derive a comprehensive analysis.
Led by a detailed analysis of internal and external threat perceptions, national security objectives, nuclear deterrence, and non-proliferation issues and strategic vision, among other elements, the discussion examines strategy formulations in terms of challenges and imperatives for India. China-Pakistan collusion, the rise of China, and dealing with terrorism and proxy war emerge as fundamental to India's national security strategy.
The author reiterates the need for a proactive strategic culture, a broad-based grand strategy, an internal security strategy, and a counter-terrorism strategy supported by strong international relations with global powers, while underlining the importance of technological superiority and combat capability enhancement for future conflicts.
The book is compelling reading for India’s political leaders, foreign policy-makers and those in the administrative services and the armed forces, well as economists, scientists, and those involved with defence finance, defence acquisitions and ‘Make in India’ programmes.
The New Arthashastra breathes new life into the myopic thinking and writing that has been underway for decades in pursuit of national security strategy.