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A Complex Domain

C. Uday Bhaskar

By Shrikant Paranjpe
Routledge, New Delhi, 2013, pp. 184, Rs. 695.00


Indian strategic thought has been the subject of considerable interest among the professionals engaged in this niche and the seminal essay by US analyst George Tanham in 1992 provided a conceptual framework that is still invoked. The gist of the received wisdom is that Independent India’s overarching security policy has been hobbled by what is often described as the Nehruvian legacy of a reactive strategy—and of Delhi still not being able to evolve a well-thought out national security policy that is adequate, affordable, equitable—and above all, articulated in a cogent and sustained manner.   Given the many security/military punctuations that dot the Indian trajectory since August 1947—beginning with the first war over Kashmir in October 1947 to the audacious Mumbai terror attack of November 2008, the subject is rich and relatively under-explored. It is this vast and complex domain that Professor Paranjpe wades into—both earnestly and enthusiastically—but the net result is disappointing. Given the profile of the author and the pedigree of the publisher, this is intriguing.   The preamble begins on an ambitious note and it is averred that ‘this study is an attempt to put forth a survey of Indian strategic thinking as it has evolved over the years and of the shape that it has taken in the post-Soviet world order.’ This in itself is unexceptionable and a methodical survey of the evolution of Indian strategic thought would have served an admirable purpose. In the same section, the author raises conceptual questions about the legitimacy of the use of force, revisionist versus status quo options and makes an elliptical assertion that : ‘A kind of ambiguity has emerged in (Indian ) strategic thinking, along with a defensive mindset.’ This ambiguity, it is further added, has become ‘somewhat deliberate’ and the central question that the author then posits for his exploration is framed as: ‘The real question that one may have to answer today is whether “deliberate ambiguity” can be a strategic doctrine for India in terms of its utility for addressing problems of national security.’   Paranjpe’s own carefully worded formulation is advanced in the introductory chapter. It avers, ‘this study seeks to argue that an “Indian” approach to strategic thinking has evolved that is different from the Western tradition that appears to be more “documentary” in nature. This “Indian” thinking may appear “ambiguous” in nature to the extent that it does not seek to specify in concrete ...

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