The Academia and Defence

22 Nov, 2000    ·   436

Wg Cdr NK Pant comments on academic debates on national security

The scholarly talk on Nuclear Policy, Grand strategy and Political Values in India, delivered by Professor Kanti Bajpai of the Jawaharlal Nehru University a few months back in New Delhi as part of the PC Lal Memorial Lecture under the aegis of the Air Force Association, despite being brilliant, was something like a piece of modern art on the canvas of national security done with deep philosophical hues. It certainly had the flavour of academic showmanship usually displayed by university dons. No doubt the subject was spectacularly marshaled throughout its hour-long course of delivery only to be lost later on in the paradoxes of theories and schools of thoughts.  



The responsibility for nuclear deterrence were foreseen to be solely with the air force for a decade or so, until the country’s navy develops the SSBN and a ground based strategic missile force is assembled. The air force, in view of the requirements of nuclear deterrence, will need updating and modernization. 



On the nuclear policy, three broad schools of thought have emerged on the scene each contending for dominance — rejectionists, pragmatists and maximalists. Though all agree on India ’s need to go nuclear, there are areas of disagreements. The rejectionists hold that nuclear weapons are necessary for deterrence and feel that even a few nuclear weapons with adequate command and control would deter the adversary. They are not in favour of India signing CTBT or the proposed FMCT, although they underline the feasibility of disarmament. The pragmatists believe that India , after having achieved nuclear weapons status, can join CTBT in return for a de facto recognition of its nuclear status to enable the country to deploy its nukes. They are, however, sceptical about the desirability of global disarmament in the foreseeable future. The maximalists want India to arm itself as quickly as possible with nuclear weapons for and advocate an arsenal as large as China with a triad and sophisticated command and control arrangements. They are certainly against India joining any non-proliferation regime. 



Grand Strategy was defined as a plan that considers all the resources at the disposal of the nation and attempt to use them effectively to achieve security in both peace and war. Three  distinct views of grand strategy were termed  Nehruvianism, modernism and hyperrealism. The Nehruvians base internal security on a secular, democratic and socialist order. The use of force to regulate internal order in this view is an absolute last resort option. In the context of national security, this idealist school of thought believes in regional co-operation which includes economic co-operation, people to people contact, cultural interactions, sports links and track-II diplomacy. The modernists—critics of the mixed economy- are fairly close to Nehruvians on internal security, but differ with them regarding regional security. Their strategy is to spread India ’s wings and to take it out of the region as much as possible—to West Asia and Central Asia for energy supplies, and to South East Asia for economic profit. They want the country to stand tall amongst the great powers. For hyperrealists, the use force is a must against those who are undermining internal peace. They want India to dominate the region and would like the country to gatecrash into the inner circle of the great powers as, in their view, India is already a great power. 



Political values influence the nation’s internal security, regional security and relations with the great powers. Three perspectives are dominant in India – left liberalism, libertarianism and conservatism. India ’s leftists and left of the centre political parties are left liberals who have much in common with Nehruvian thought on grand strategy. Left liberalism influenced the conception and practice of non-alignment, which is a refusal to be sucked into the  power games of the great powers. Libertarianism is a political doctrine that is committed to emancipating the individual from institutions and ideas that obstruct one from realising one’s full potential. Finally, conservatism is a political doctrine, which believes in sticking to traditional methods. 



But should we treat the subject matter of defence like mathematics, political science or economics where hypotheses, theorems, canons and schools of thoughts rule the roost? It concerns our very existence as a nation and needs pragmatic treatment. War is said to be much  serious a thing to be left to generals, admirals and air marshals; it needs marshalling a national effort, including the  academic community, sans the myriad schools of thoughts.