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How India hoodwinks the world about its real military budget

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India’s Union Budget for the financial year 2020-21 envisages a total outlay of Rs. 30,42,230 crore. Out of this, Rest. 3, 37,553 crore has been allocated for military (excluding military pension). For military pensions, an amount of Rs. 1, 33,825 crore has been provided in Budget Estimates 2020-21. There is an increase of Rs. 40,367.21 crore in the total military allocations (Rs. 4, 71,378 crore) including military over the financial year 2019-20. Total military budget accounts for 15.49 per cent of the total central government expenditure for the year 2020-21.

The allocation of Rs. 4, 71,378 crore represents a growth of 9.37 per cent over Budget Estimates (Rs. 4, 31,010.79 crore) for the financial year 2019-20. Out of Rs. 3, 37,553 crore allocated for the financial year 2020-21, Rs. 2, 18,998 crore is for the Revenue (Net) expenditure and Rs. 1, 18,555 crore is for capital expenditure for the Defence Services and the Organisations/Departments under Ministry of Defence. The amount of Rs. 1, 18,555 crore allocated for capital expenditure includes modernisation related expenditure.  A think-tank published the key indicators as shown in following table which slightly differ from some media reports.

India’s Military Budget: Key Indicators

Indicator        2019-202020-21
Military Budget (Rs. in Crore)3,05,2963,23,053
Growth of military Budget (%)     9.35.8
Revenue Expenditure  (Rs. in Crore)                     2,01,9022,09,319
Revenue Expenditure (Rs. in Crore)                     2,01,9022,09,319
Growth of Revenue Expenditure (%)         8.93.7
Growth of Revenue Expenditure (%)         8.93.7
Growth of Revenue Expenditure (%)8.93.7
Share of Revenue Expenditure in Military Budget (%)6665
Capital Expenditure (Rs. in Crore) 1,03,3941,13,734
Growth of Capital Expenditure (%)         10.010.0
Share of Capital Expenditure in military Budget (%)3435
Share of Capital Expenditure in Central Government Capital3128
Capital Acquisition (Rs. in Crore)80,95990,649^
Growth of Capital Acquisition (%)          9.212.0
Share of military Budget in GDP (%)1.491.44
Share of military Budget in Central Government Expenditure (%)         11.010.6
Defence Pension (Rs. in Crore) 1,12,0801,33,825
Growth of military Pension (%)3.019.4
MoD (Civil) (Rs. in Crore)           13,63514,500
Growth in MoD (Civil) (%)-15.96.3
MoD’s Budget (Rs. in Crore) 4,31,0114,71,378
Growth in MoD’s Budget (%)     6.6       9.4 
Share of MoD Budget in GDP (%)2.12.1
Share of MoD Budget in Central Government Expenditure (%)         15.515.5

Deceptive figures: India showcases its ‘transparent’ military expenditures on websites.  But the real expenditure in past years has been much greater than that exhibited on websites. In the past, India unnoticeably increased its military outlays in revised and then actual estimates.  Thus the actual military expenditure is much higher than the initial estimates, quoted in international media under a hypnotic spell.

To hoodwink general reader, India deflates its military expenditure through clever stratagems. It publishes its `demands for grants for “defence” services’ separately from demands for grants of civil ministries that includes its defence ministry (MoD).

It clubs military pensions in civil estimates. There are several other quasi-military provisions that are similarly shoved in civil estimates. Such concealed defence provisions include public-sector undertakings under MoD like dockyards, machine tool industries (Mishra Dhatu Nigham), and Bharat Heavy Electrical Limited, besides space-and-nuke/chemical/biological-research projects, border and strategic roads and a host of paramilitary forces (Border Security Force, Industrial Reserve Force, etc.).

Why India does so? It does so to `lower’ its military budget as proportion of Gross National Product. Through such ploys, India, as compared with its neighbours, gets a favourable image in The Military Balance, Jane’s Defense, and other international magazines.

The analyses of India’s military spending suffer from an inherent shortcoming. They have to rely on figures showcased by India on official websites. As such, the true quantum of military budget is deflated. The deflated figures are used to make inter-country, inter-region or endogenous comparisons like military budget as proportion of total civil and military outlay.

Without a hard copy of Explanatory Memorandum to Demands for Grants, it is difficult to analyse the budget. The approved outlays are further increased via revised outlays and upward readjustments of actual-expenditures.

The memorandum could throw light on India’s mega purchases. They include carbine rifles for army, Advanced Jet Trainers, Airborne Warning and Control system, additional Mi-17 Helicopters, MiG-29 upgrade, Low-Level Transportable Radar, Integrated Air Command and Control System and Surveillance Radar Element in respect for the air force. Weapon Locating Radar and T- 72 upgrade in respect of the Army, Rafaels, so on.

During his visit to India, president Trump of the United States It offered to sell India US$ 3 billion (per one unit) Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) and Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC-3) missile defence systems as an alternative to the Russian S-400 system. India ditched Russia from whom it had decided to purchase five S-400s Russian S-400s air defence systems at cost of US$5.4 billion. With US tacit support, India is getting tougher with China. There was a 73-day standoff on the Doklam 

(Donglang in Chinese) plateau near the Nathula Pass on Sikkim border last year. Being at a disadvantage vis-a-vis India, China was compelled to resolve the stand-off through negotiations.  In the later period, China developed high-altitude “electromagnetic catapult” rockets for its artillery units to liquidate Indian advantage there, as also in Tibet Autonomous Region. China intends to mount a magnetically-propelled high-velocity rail-gun on its 10,000-ton-class missile destroyer 055 being  built.

India took up the development of the Sittwe Port in Myanmar as part of the Kaladan multi-modal transit transport project for building a multi-modal sea, river and road transport corridor for shipment of cargo from the eastern ports of India to Myanmar through Sittwe. India upgraded its existing listening post in northern Madagascar. India has obtained access to the US naval base in Diego Garcia, and to the French naval bases in Mayotte and Reunion islands, besides Australian naval base in Cocos (Keeling. Robert Kaplan, in his book, Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and Future of American Power, argues that the geopolitics of the twenty-first century will hinge on the Indian Ocean. Waters of the Indian Ocean reach 28 countries which together account for 35 per cent of the world’s population and 19 per cent of the world’s Gross Domestic Product. Sixty per cent of the world’s oil shipments from the Gulf countries to China, Japan and other Asian countries pass through these waters which host 23 of the world’s busiest ports.

China is currently exploring an area of 10000 Square kilometres in the South-West Indian Ocean Ridge through its state-controlled China Ocean Mineral Resources Research and Development Association It is  also exploring Clarion- Clipperton Fracture Zone in the Pacific. Simultaneously, it is modernising and upgrading its naval fleet on a massive scale. Besides, China is technologically augmenting its  indigenous manufacturing capability by empowering its two largest state-owned shipbuilders, China State Shipbuilding Corporation and Shipbuilding Industry Corporation.Conspicuously, India is set for big purchases in the new budget to master the skies and the Indian Ocean. It reflects her desire’to establish her hegemony in the region.

World’s third largest military spender: Earlier Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) has observed India’s military spending grew 6.8 % to touch $71.1 billion outpacing Japan ($47.6 billion) and South Korea ($43.9 billion). The US, China and India were the world’s three biggest military spenders in 2019, followed by Russia and Saudi Arabia. Now, the two Asian countries have become top three for the first time. The three countries were ahead of Russia ($65 billion) and Saudi Arabia ($61.8 billion) who together were world’s top military spenders. They accounted for 62% of the global military spend including salaries, benefits, operational expenses, arms and equipment purchases, military construction, research and development, central administration, command and support.

India’s spending rose by 6.8 % and touching $71.1 billion outpacing Japan’s ($47.6 billion) and South Korea’s ($43.9 billion).

Misconception:  Indian policy of increasing her military outlays is based on strategic misconceptions. India thinks it would be suicidal for Pakistan to increase her military budget pari passu with India’s.  In any case, Pakistan could not afford to spend more than half the increase in India’s military budget. A higher allocation would sap Pakistan’s resource potential for growth in future.

India thinks Pakistan has to choose between Scylla and Charybdis, that is economic collapse or military preparation. India’s perceptions historically have proved to be wrong. Pakistan neutralised the impact of this differential economic performance by, going nuclear, and developing tactical nuclear weapons like Nasr short-range missile.

Comparison with binary Pakistan: Pakistan conventionally mentions ‘a one-line cumulative military outlay’ in its defence budget. This gives the negative impression that defence establishment compels lawmakers to thumb-impress military demands for grants. Ayesha Siddiqa, author of Military Inc.: Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy says, “Pakistan’s Auditor General has expressed reservations in the past at the Public Accounts Committee meeting at the National Assembly about the lack of auditing of the military budget.”  Her view is based on fact that, in 2016, the Auditor General of Pakistan, a constitutional body empowered to examine all government expenditures made from public money, told the Pakistani parliament that the funds given to military institutions were exempt from audit.

The truth however remain that Pakistan’s military authorities, including its defence ministry, publicly announced that they would provide whatever information the people’s representatives need. The reps have never been curious notwithstanding.

Pakistan’s defence demands undergo a rigorous scrutiny by relevant parliamentary committees and audit bodies.  Legislators and MoD babus are properly briefed about need for provisions.  Whenever demanded, the details of the defence budget for the current, as well as for the coming, financial year were placed before the parliament.  Even the expenditure on Zarb-e-Azb appeared more than once in media.

Most legislators lack acumen to analyse numerical rigmarole.  So they themselves do not wish to be bothered with the job being done by competent professionals in various ministries and parliamentary committees.

Pakistan should separate expenditure of forces to defend China Pakistan Economic Corridor and key installations including parliament from normal demands for defence grants.

Historically, a common feature of all strong states was that they had strong military and civil institutions, dejure capability to defend their territory and policies that favoured the citizenry rather than the dominant classes. Historically, a common feature of all strong states was that they had strong military and civil institutions, dejure capability to defend their territory and policies that favoured the citizenry rather than the dominant classes.

Let us see how our vociferous opposition strikes a balance between constraints of security and welfare. In case our lawmakers feel handicapped in understanding the intricacies of defence budgeting in the context of internal and external security situation, GHQ may arrange a briefing for them

Let us see how our vociferous opposition strikes a balance between constraints of security and welfare. In case our lawmakers feel handicapped in understanding the intricacies of defence budgeting in the context of internal and external security situation, GHQ may arrange a briefing for them.

Back in 1996-97, British Labour Party Defence Study Group tried to highlight defence burden on public exchequer. In that report, they drew comparisons between the defence and social costs. For instance, £ 7,000 million cost of Tornado multi-role combat aircraft project was more than the total cost of Britain’s health and personal social services projects for 1976-77. £ 16 million price of the Frigate Ambuscade could provide a new 50S-bed hospital in Bangor. The submarine Superb was more expensive than building 4,000 new homes.

 Lt Gen Attiqur Rehman in my defence course says: “In a democracy, the defence services belong to the people through their representatives in parliament. Thus, the people have the right to know what is going on, how their money is being spent, and how the defence services are being managed and administered. In fact, they have a right to know everything, except details of the actual war plans.”

Some concealed aspects

Nuclear research: Indian Air Force chiefs keep Indian Air Force ( IAF)  is capable of detecting nuclear targets in Pakistan and is ready to strike them out.  But, the decision has to be taken by the government. India’s another swaggering braggart, ex-army chief now CDS chairman is never tired of claiming India’s capability to fight a two front war with China and Pakistan, and win it. Any war could flare up into nuclear Armageddon. India conceals its real nuclear bomb-making capacity under civil ministries’ provisions.

Nuclear/Chemical capability: It  is pertinent to mention that: (1) Robert S. McNamara, in his address to the World Bank Annual Conference on Development Economics at Washington, DC, as far back as on April 25, 1991 inter alia classified India among the’ Countries reported by the Western governments as seeking a CW capability or suspected to be possessing chemical weapons’. The explanatory footnote to the Table 111-2: Distribution of Chemical Weapons, 1990, states that the classified countries denied possession of chemical weapons, or intentions to acquire such weapons (Source: The Post-Cold War World and its Implications for Military Expenditures in the. Developing Countries, by Robert McNamara).

Methyl isocyanates were being produced at the Union Carbide India when it exploded killing thousands of people. There were 27 factories producing products including Carbaryl through cyanates supplied by UCIL. Where does provision for CBW research appears in India’s military budgets.

The Washington Post reported in 2013 that the police in occupied Kashmir published a notice in the Greater Kashmir (now under black out), advising people about nuclear-war survival tips. The tips included constructing well-stocked bunkers in basements or front yards, and having a stock of food and batteries or candles to last at least two weeks.

Colossal expenditure on conventional weapons by a nuclear power is not understood. Nuclear deterrence does not mean matching bomb for bomb.

A US proxy: India is emerging as the US proxy against rising China, which is determined to surpass the USA in GDP by 2027. India is opposed to China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Besides, it uses its aid, trade and border contiguity to obstruct Chinese influence in Bhutan, Nepal, and Bangladesh.

At India’s bidding, those countries toe the Indian line in SAARC and other international forums like G-20. In 2005, Washington expressed its intention to help India become a major world power in the 21st century (according to K. Alan Kronsstadt, Congressional Research Service Report for Congress, 13 February 2007). It was later re-affirmed by Ambassador David Mulford in a US Embassy press in 2005. The USA’s resolve later translated into modification of domestic laws to facilitate export of sensitive military technology to India. The Nuclear Supplier Group also relaxed its controls to begin exports to India’s civilian nuclear reactor (enabling India to divert resources to military use).

Raj Mohan, Shyam Saran and several others point out that India follows Kautliya’s mandala (concentric, asymptotic and intersecting circles, inter-relationships) doctrine in foreign policy. It is akin to Henry Kissinger’s `spheres of influence’. According to this doctrine ‘all neighbouring countries are actual or potential enemies’. However, short-run policy should be based on common volatile, dynamic, mercurial interests, like the intersection of two sets.

Former Indian foreign secretary, Shyam Saran in his book How India Sees the World says, ‘Kautliyan [Chanakyan] template would say the options for India are sandhi, conciliation; asana, neutrality; and yana, victory through war. One could add dana, buying allegiance through gifts; and bheda, sowing discord. The option of yana, of course would be the last in today’s world’ (p. 64, ibid.). It appears that Kautliya’s and Saran’s last-advised option is India’s first option, with regard to China and Pakistan, nowadays.

Raj Mohan elucidates India’s ambition, in terms of Kauliya’s mandala (inter-relationships), to emerge as South Asian hegemon in following words:

‘India’s grand strategy divides the world into three concentric circles. In the first, which encompasses the immediate neighbourhood, India has sought primacy and a veto over actions of outside powers. In the second who encompasses the so-called extended neighourhood, stretching across Asia and Indian Ocean littoral, India has sought to balance of other powers and prevent them from undercutting its interests. In the third which includes the entire global stage, India has tried to take its place as one of the great power, a key player in international peace and security. (C. Raja Mohan, India and the Balance of Power, Foreign Affairs July-August 2006).

Henry Kissinger views Indian ambitions in the following words: ‘Just as the early American leaders developed in the Monroe Doctrine concept for America’s special role in the Western Hemisphere, so India has established in practice a special positioning the Indian Ocean region between East Indies and the horn of Africa. Like Britain with respect to Europe in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, India strives to prevent the emergence of a dominant power in this vast portion of the globe. Just as early American leaders did not seek approval of the countries of the Western Hemisphere with respect to the Monroe Doctrine, so Indian in the region of its special strategic interests conducts its policy on the basis of its own definition of a South Asian order’ (World Order, New York, Penguin Press, 2014).

Zbigniew Brzeszinsky takes note of India’s ambition to rival China thus: ‘Indian strategies speak openly of greater India exercising a dominant position in an area ranging from Iran to Thailand. India is also position itself to control the Indian Ocean militarily, its naval and air power programs point clearly in that direction as do politically guided efforts to establish for Indi strong positions, with geostrategic implications in adjoining Bangladesh and Burma (Strategic Vision: America and the Crisis of Global Power).

To woo India firmly into its fold, the USA offered to sell India Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD, for $3 billion per unit) and Patriot Advance Capability (PAC-3) missile defence systems as an alternative to the Russian S-400 air defence system. India ditched Russia from whom it had earlier decided to purchase five S-400s at a cost of $5.4 billion.

With tacit US support, India is getting tougher with China. There was a 73-day standoff on the Doklam Plateau near the Nathula Pass on the Sikkim border last year. Being at a disadvantage vis-à-vis India, China was compelled to resolve the stand-off through negotiations. China later developed high-altitude “electromagnetic catapult” rockets for its artillery units to liquidate the Indian advantage there, as also in Tibet Autonomous Region. China intends to mount a magnetically-propelled high-velocity rail-gun on its 055-class under-construction missile destroyer 055.

India’s ambition to become the South Asian hegemon is reflected in its successive defence budgets. Aside from the showcased marginal increase in the defence budget, the three services have been asked to devise a five-year model plan for capital acquisitions. The Indian navy wants a 200-ship strong fleet by 2027. Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh had in December pointed out China added over 80 ships in the last five years. The Navy wants to procure six new conventional submarines and 111 Naval Utility Helicopters to replace the vintage fleet of Chetaks. The IAF wants to procure 114 new fighters besides the 36 Rafales ordered in 2015, still in process.

Quaid on Indo-Pak joint defence: Pakistan’s founder Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah cherished desire for lasting Indo-Pak peace even before creation of Pakistan. During his last days, The Quaid was perturbed at the Cold War rivalry emerging between the USA and the USSR.

The Quaid keenly desired that the subcontinent and all of South Asia should remain aloof from the rivalry. Therefore, he proposed a joint defence pact with India. Had India accepted his idea, the two countries would not have been at daggers drawn after independence.

Before his final flight (Aug 7, 1947) from Delhi to Pakistan, he sent a message to the Indian government, “the past must be buried and let us start as two independent sovereign states of Hindustan and Pakistan, I wish Hindustan prosperity and peace.” Vallabhbhai Patel replied from Delhi “the poison has been removed from the body of India. As for the Muslims, they have their roots, their sacred places and their centres here. I do not know what they can possibly do in Pakistan. It will not be long before they return to us.”

Even Nehru, an ostensibly liberal leader, regarded the creation of Pakistan as a blunder. His rancour against Pakistan reaches a crescendo in his remarks: “I shall not have that carbuncle on my back.” (D. H. Bhutani, The Future of Pakistan, page 14). Will India stop its worldwide defence purchases to open a new chapter in relations with Pakistan?

Let India lower her expenditure first! It should be a leader to compel Pakistan to follow suit.  It must shun hegemonic designs, at least for the time being, when Covid19 rages.

Inferences: Any analysis of India’s military budget should be based on actual Demands for Grants coupled with Explanatory memoranda. The allocations concealed under civil ministries outlays should be ferreted out and added to military allocations. The successive increases n revised and then actual budget estimates should be taken into account. As a result of India’s rising military expenditures, Pakistan also increases her defence expenditure. If Pakistan weakens its defence by slashing its defence expenditure, will India guarantee that it will not attack Pakistan or go for a quasi-attack (Operation Parakram costing Rs. 74 crore). The colossal increase in big brother’s military budget is untenable in light of its teeming millions living below the poverty line.

Each year India increases her defence budget.  The estimated outlays are further increased via revised outlays and upward re-adjustments of actual-expenditures.

Indian policy of increasing her defence outlays is based on strategic misconceptions. India visualised it would be suicidal for Pakistan to increase her defence budget pari passu with India’s budget.  In any case, Pakistan could not afford to spend more than half the increase in India’s defence budget. A higher allocation would sap Pakistan’s resource potential for sustained growth in future.

India thought Pakistan had to choose between Scylla and Charybdis that is economic collapse or defence preparations (same quandary as of former USSR). However, India’s perceptions proved to be wrong. Pakistan has neutralised the impact of this differential economic performance by, going nuclear.

India’s rising defence expenditures appear to have been actuated by a misconception of national security. The national security of a country depends upon many factors, variously interpreted and defined like soldiers’ morale, scientists’ ingenuity, military and political leaders’ character and skill, geographic position, and economic wherewithal. Indian planners are oblivious of the fact that, in general, the more resources the nation devotes to national security, the less it will have for social security and vice versa. Some economists conceive of a ‘social welfare function’ to be maximized by an appropriate allocation of the nation’s resources satisfying various objectives (including defence).

National security, from the point of view of an economist, depends on three factors: (a) The quantity of national resources available, now and in future, (b) The proportion of these resources allocated to national security purposes, and (c) The efficiency with which the resources so allocated are used.

Resources are always limited vis-à-vis unlimited wants. As such, the problem of defence allocations should, in effect, be a problem of constrained resource optimization, not blind allocation of resources. Let India lower her expenditure. 

Amna Javed is currently working with Islamabad Institute of Conflict Resolution (IICR) as a research fellow. She is also a visiting faculty at School of Politics and IR, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.

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The Need to Reorient New Delhi in the Indo-Pacific

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Beijing’s overt expansionism in South Asia and the South China Sea (SCS) continues to threaten India’s maritime security. The rise of China as an Asian military and global economic power has also disrupted the inherent security and multilateralism of the Indo-Pacific region (IPR).

In response, New Delhi along with others has adopted the concept of the Indo-Pacific. However, over the last decade New Delhi’s orientation in the IPR has been particularly “Pacific-oriented”, resulting in a less than comprehensive approach to India’s maritime security priorities in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

India’s Strategic Goals in the Indo-Pacific

China’s so-called “peaceful rise” has been betrayed by Beijing’s growing territorial designs in South Asia and the SCS; the ongoing buildup along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), and China’s militarised outposts in the SCS are evidence to this. These designs have also been operationalised through economic measures under its predatory Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), of which the “silk road” is a challenge to India’s maritime security.

India’s strategic competition with China has provoked the expansion of national material capacity and foreign policy measures. These are aimed at developing and preserving collective regional security and multilateralism, in India’s primary and secondary interest areas.

However, over the years, New Delhi’s adoption of the IPR concept has witnessed a disproportionate emphasis on the eastern sub-region of the Indian Ocean (EIO) in terms of its maritime security priorities, resulting in a Pacific-oriented approach. A number of factors have brought about such an orientation.

A Pacific-Oriented Approach and the EIO

First, India’s strategic advantage along the “Indo-Pacific straits”. The “Malacca dilemma” gives New Delhi an edge over China’s energy supply-lines, and regional trade from the IOR to the western Pacific Ocean. This advantage is furthered by the development of material capacities, most significant of which has been the establishment of India’s first integrated command on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

The Andaman and Nicobar Command’s (ANC) surveillance and kinetic capabilities not only improves India’s own security status, but also signals its contribution in preserving collective regional security in the EIO, for example, through the India-Australia-Japan-US Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD), or Quad.

Second, the origins of the IPR concept in the now famous “confluence of the seas” speech delivered by PM Shinzo Abe to the Indian Parliament in 2007. The  mention of,  “[a] “broader Asia” that broke away geographical boundaries…”, or Southeast Asia, highlighted the political locus of the IPR’s confrontation with an “assertive China”. The continued militarisation of the SCS, growing tensions in East Asia, and the US-China strategic competition, helps perpetuate Southeast Asia’s prominence in the IPR discourse.

Third, New Delhi’s continuation of the “Look East” policy as the “Act East” policy (AEP)  in 2014. Building on historical ties with Southeast Asia, New Delhi placed ASEAN at the core of the AEP. ASEAN is also considered “central to India’s footprint in East Asia”. These foreign policy measures, focused on developing resilient trans-regional connectivity and supply-chains, flow past the EIO, from the Andaman Sea, through the Malacca strait, to Southeast Asia and beyond.

Fourth, and finally, India’s growing importance in the US-China strategic competition. China’s economic influence in Southeast Asia, along with its large military capabilities, poses a threat to the US’s position as an influential extra-regional power. The recently ratified Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) has been the latest in a list of disruptions to the US’s predominance in the IPR. 

As India’s maritime goals continue to converge with that of the US and its regional allies – Japan, Australia, and the Republic of Korea – New Delhi’s interests will stretch further into the Pacific theatre, to the SCS, East China Sea and Western Pacific. In fact, some suggest that the idea of a military command on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands was in fact, first discussed by President Bill Clinton and PM P.V Narashima Rao as a deterrent against China in 1995.

Furthermore, the US defines the IPR as, “…the region which stretches from the west coast of India to the western shores of the United States…”, thereby excluding the WIOR from its strategic approach to the Indo-Pacific theatre. This explains why the sub-region is understated in India’s IPR discourse. 

While Indian Navy (IN) manoeuvres in the region have been generally limited to the IOR, the recent Galwan Valley clash saw an IN warship deployed to the SCS; coincidentally, during an ongoing US naval exercise in the area. There is also a growing call for the expansion of IN presence to the Western Pacific, beyond its mission-based deployments.

Reorienting New Delhi Towards the WIOR

This Pacific-orientation has resulted in the omission of the western sub-region of the Indian Ocean Region (WIOR) from India’s strategic approach to the IPR. The use of the term “Indo-Pacific straits” for those between the EIO and Southeast Asia, already exclude the sub-region from India’s strategic approach to the IPR.

A comprehensive approach to the IOR should obviously entail an emphasis on India’s maritime security priorities in both sub-regions of the IOR.

This in turn will allow New Delhi to realise its interests in the larger Indo-Pacific theatre.

The WIOR is physically a much larger arena, with different regional and extra-regional actors. However, it is a significant arena within the IPR for much of the same reasons as the EIO

The main obstacle of the WIOR, when placed within the IPR concept is that India’s approach to the region diverges greatly from its current IPR partners. Differing priorities, conflicting interests and historical contexts, for example with regards to Pakistan and Iran, have generally muted the region.

The decision to hold the second phase of the 2020 Malabar Exercise in the Arabian Sea is a welcome move in reinforcing the sub-region in India’s IPR approach. New Delhi’s reception of the recently signed Maldives-US defence agreement is also a sign of India’s slow reorientation to the WIOR.

India’s position in the WIOR gives it a number of strategic advantages. The Indian peninsula along with the Lakshadweep Islands and Laccadive Sea, offers New Delhi a unique edge in protecting and overseeing much of the world’s goods trade from the Atlantic Ocean, and energy supplies from West Asia to the Pacific Oceans. The development of material capacities in this arena will act as a springboard for the further enhancement of collective regional security.

The growing participation of extra-regional actors in the WIOR, such as France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the EU, signals to New Delhi the need to include the region in its IPR approach. Pursuing mutually beneficial security and economic arrangements with actors besides its existing IPR partners will also help circumventing current contrasts in maritime priorities and geostrategic interests.

More importantly, China’s growing military and economic presence in the Arabian Sea, through the “string of pearls” and the “maritime silk road”, remains a threat to India’s traditional ties to, and its status as a net-security provider in the WIOR. The Chabahar Port in the Balochistan-Sistan province in Iran is one such economic interest that has seen much controversy; the recent exclusion of India from the Zahedan railway project, and the subsequent agreement of a $400 billion strategic partnership between China and Iran.

The WIOR is also of concern to India due to extant interests, such as maintaining a strategic advantage vis-a-vis Pakistan, enhancing trade with Afghanistan and East Africa, piracy/terrrorism in the Arabian Sea, and energy supplies from the Middle East.

Conclusion

To secure India’s maritime priorities in the IOR, but also consolidate its vision for the IPR, New Delhi needs to reorient itself, determine its strategic advantages in the WIOR, and develop national capacity and foreign policy measures equivalent to those in the EIO.

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On the Universality of the “Logic of Strategy” and Beyond

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Just like several other scholars, military strategist Edward Luttwak argues that “the universal logic of strategy applies in perfect equality to every culture in every age”.[i] This implies that there is indeed one logic inherent to strategic thought, which, according to Luttwak, “cannot be circumvented […] and must be obeyed”.[ii]Mahnken further underpins the idea of the universality of the logic of strategy with the argument that war is a human activity and human nature has not changed throughout time.[iii]When considering Colin Gray stating that “there is an essential unity to all strategic experience in all periods of history because nothing vital to the nature and function of war and strategy changes”, it seems rather natural to accept a certain inevitability of strategic conclusions.[iv]

It is therefore necessary to pose the question which implications the existence of a universal logic of strategy might entail. If such a universally valid logic is assumed to exist, those who understand – or rather master – it best and manage to uncover its underlying cognitive mechanisms will be the most successful actors within the international system as they will be more able to foresee and therefore counter the strategies of possible opponents.

Additionally, to investigate the notion of a logic of strategy is particularly relevant considering the prospect of future wars. If there is a logic of strategy, which is further universally valid, then neither the scenario of a militarized outer space, nor the invention of highly lethal, insuperable biological weapons or the increasing development of and reliance on artificial intelligence will have any substantial, altering effect on it. This thought is congruent with Colin Gray, who claims that it would be a major fallacy to fall prey to the assumption that the invention of ever more modern weapon systems might change the presumed continuity inherent to strategy.[v] In this respect, it must also be emphasized that a certain trust in a universally valid logic of strategy must be handled carefully and must not confine strategic thinking. Hence, the notion of a logic of strategy hints towards the very practice of strategy.[vi]

The term “strategy” itself evolved over time and certainly captured a different meaning before World War One than it does today. This caesura was introduced by Freedman, who argues that this experience led to a widening of the concept “strategy” and to several attempts of redefinition, thus diverging from earlier notions of the concept as provided by von Clausewitz and others.[vii] However, Whetham points out that the notion of strategy and its inherent logic already permeated pre-modern eras, even if it was not yet considered or referred to as such by the respective protagonists.[viii]Approaching the term from a contemporary perspective, Gray very prominently defines strategy as “the bridge that relates military power to political purpose”.[ix]Angstrom and Widen engage with the term similarly when they write that strategy must be viewed as a rationalist process that reconciles “the political aims of war and the military aims in war”.[x] The notion of strategy can therefore be boiled down to the combination of means, ways and aims.

The term “logic” shall in this essay be understood as a rational process of reasoning that is based on various premises and finally leads to the acceptance of a valid conclusion.[xi]Considering that the sub-discipline of strategic studies was traditionally occupied with the question whether and to what extent strategic action is subject to historical, economic, social and technological regularities and patterns – thus whether certain premises indeed necessarily lead to specific strategic conclusions – the assumption of a specific “logic of strategy” does not seem far-fetched. Therefore, this essay argues that indeed a universally valid logic inherent to strategy can be identified, having overcome the constraints of time and space. However, this logic is not the only one. Strategy further operates along the lines of a time- and space-bound, actor-specific logic, which is why strategy must be perceived through a multidimensional lens – and which finally makes strategy so difficult.

On the logic of strategy

When approaching the notion of a logic of strategy, it is necessary to emphasize two preconditions. Firstly, the utility of the use of military force as an important tool of statecraft must be acknowledged.[xii] Secondly, one has to consider the general overarching perception of international politics that widely underlies the field of strategic studies, namely the notion of an anarchic self-help system with independent states at its center, which are all armed to a certain extent and therefore find themselves in security dilemmas.[xiii] Within this framework we will now consider what might constitute the logic of strategy.

When elaborating on the question whether there exist “guidelines” that inform strategic thinking, Gaddis concludes that the fact that strategists do not always have to start from square one increases the likeliness of a certain logic of strategy.[xiv] According to Angstrom and Wilden, the logic of strategy unfolds as its design necessarily bases on three core pillars.[xv]Firstly, military and political ends are perceived as two distinct aspects that need to be put into accordance, the application of military means serving the political ends. Moreover, the actor being concerned with strategy does not have unlimited resources at his/her disposal. Therefore, the aspect of the scarcity of resources is to be viewed as a cornerstone or fixed determinant of the underlying logic of strategy. This is a crucial factor because, as Gray points out, examples like Imperial France, Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union all demonstrate that the pursuit of political ends beyond one’s means is bound to fail.[xvi]Thirdly, Angstrom and Widen emphasize that the logic of strategy builds on the confrontation of opposing wills, which accounts for strategy’s interactive and consequently dynamic nature.[xvii] This component might be captured best by Beaufre, who approaches strategy as “the art of the dialectic of two opposing wills using force to resolve their dispute”.[xviii] It is crucial to highlight that the “opposing will” belongs to an intelligent, capable opponent. These three elements that define the logic of strategy are further interlinked, leading to repercussions among them.

As strategy describes the use of military means for the achievement of political ends, several authors have thus attempted to categorize the possible ways to use force. For instance, Robert Art distinguishes four functions of the use of force: defense, deterrence, compellence and swaggering.[xix] Why is this categorization important when reflecting on the logic of strategy? This is because the possible ways to use force (independently of which form the specific “force” takes) are not time-bound. When for example thinking of deterrence, one might be tempted to assume that this specific way to use force is inextricably linked to the deterrence function of nuclear arms in combination with the principle of mutually assured destruction (MAD). However, as Lonsdale vividly illustrates, Alexander the Great already mastered the interplay of military power and psychological effects and made use of coercion and deterrence in order to expand and sustain the newly shaping borders of his empire.[xx] This demonstrates that the logic of strategy operates on the basis of a certain toolkit of ways to use force, which have persisted over time.

Another aspect which could be interpreted as part of a universal logic of strategy might be its inherent paradoxicality. This feature is above all emphasized by Edward Luttwak, who postulates that the whole strategic sphere is permeated with a paradoxical logic deviating from day-to-day life’s ordinary “linear” logic.[xxi] He underpins this notion by referring to the proverb “Si vis pacem, para bellum”, the idea of nuclear deterrence (thus the interpretation of one’s readiness to attack retaliatory as genuinely peaceful intent) or by providing specific examples.[xxii] In this sense he draws attention to Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 and claims that the Japanese were able to create a momentum of surprise only by neglecting crucial preparations.[xxiii] This means that within the realm of strategy, Luttwak’s paradoxical logic finds thorough application as the straightforward “linear” logic is viewed rather predictable and is therefore more likely to be punished.

In sum, the aspects outlined above could be perceived as being universally valid, throughout time and space. However, as will be argued, there is more to the logic of strategy that must be considered.

Going Beyond Strategy’s Universal Logic

In the following, the attempt should be undertaken to challenge the notion that there is indeed only a logic of strategy. One could firstly argue that strategy, bridging between military means and political objectives, is not only grounded in the specific universal logic as outlined before but that strategy is also always a choice among several available options. Then the question follows, if all options available would theoretically all be equally feasible, require the same resources and are similar in terms of effectiveness, which strategy would be adopted? One could argue that this depends on the involved actors, which, even if acting under the premise of rationality, are rooted in their specific historical, social and political contexts.

Strategy is therefore clearly not designed within a vacuum. The contents of strategy do not only derive from what was described above as composing the universally valid logic of strategy. If we return to the definition of “logic”, the term was understood as a process of thought, which leads from several given premises to a valid conclusion under the condition of rationality. Therefore, also the given time- and space-bound circumstances under which a certain strategy is formulated could be considered as forming their own logic. Angstrom and Widen summarize these circumstances as strategic context, which unfolds along the lines of six dimensions of politics (without claiming to be exhaustive): geography, history, ideology, economy, technology and the political system.[xxiv] Instead of treating them as mere contextual factors, it is important to consider the respective as constituting their own logic, along which strategy is aligned. However, Angstrom and Widen emphasize that these actor-specific factors only bear limited explanatory power and that it is difficult to assess to what extent these factors influence the design of strategies.[xxv] This, nevertheless, does not invalidate the notion that these actor-, time- and space-specific circumstances should be considered as another logic by itself. Acknowledging the existence of more than one logic of strategy penetrating the realm of strategy would further emphasize the importance of the specific embeddedness of strategy – without undermining the significance of the above identified universally valid logic of strategy. One would consequently accept that when it comes to strategy, one encounters several logics in action.

Conclusion

When returning to the initial question, which implications the existence of a logic of strategy would have, specifically regarding the prospect of success, it is worthwhile to consult Richard Betts, who asks “Is Strategy an Illusion?”.[xxvi] He argues that effective strategy is often impossible due to the unpredictability and complexity of the gap between the use of force and the aspired political ends.[xxvii] However, it is indeed because of this overwhelming complexity in which strategy operates that its underlying logics should be reflected upon. Gaddis refers to the universally valid features of the logic of strategy as a “checklist”, which shall be considered to contribute to the design of a successful, effective strategy.[xxviii] As was demonstrated above, it is nevertheless also crucial to consider the additional specific time-and space-bound logic of strategy. To understand the strategy of potential opponents, it makes sense to deconstruct its logical foundation, to consider the universally valid logic of strategy but also the respective underlying actor-specific logic. Strategy thus operates along a multidimensional logic, both universally valid and time- and space-bound. This is what makes strategy difficult but acknowledging this conceptual aspect might notwithstanding contribute to its further mastery.


[i]Luttwak, Edward N., The Rise of China vs. the Logic of Strategy (Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press, 2012), vii.

[ii]Ibid., viii.

[iii]Mahnken, Thomas G., The Evolution of Strategy… But What About Policy? Journal of Strategic Studies 34 no. 4 (2016), 52.

[iv]Gray, Colin S.,Modern Strategy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 1.

[v]Gray Colin S., Why Strategy Is Difficult. JFQ (1999), 8.

[vi] Cf. Lonsdale, David J. and Colin S. Gray (eds.), The Practice of Strategy: From Alexander the Great to the Present. Oxford: Oxford University Press (2011).

[vii]Freedman, Lawrence. The Meaning of Strategy: Part I: The Origin Story. Texas National Security Review 1 no. 1 (2007), 90-105.

[viii]Whetham, David, The Practice of Strategy: From Alexander the Great to the Present. Edited by John Andreas Olsen and Colin S. Gray. War in History 21 no. 2 (2014), 252.

[ix] Gray, Modern Strategy,17.

[x]Armstrong, Jan and J. J. Widen,Contemporary Military Theory. The Dynamics of War (New York: Routledge, 2015), 33. Original emphasis.

[xi]Hintikka, Jaakko, Logic. Encyclopaedia Britannica, accessible via: https://www.britannica.com/topic/logic [accessed: October 25th 2020].

[xii]Art, Robert J., To What Ends Military Power? International Security 4 no. 4 (1980), 35.

[xiii]Gilpin, Robert G., No one Loves a Political Realist. Security Studies 5 no. 3(1996), 26.

[xiv]Gaddis, John Lewis, Containment and the Logic of Strategy. The National Interest 8 no. 10 (1987), 29.

[xv] Armstrong and Widen, Contemporary Military Theory, 46.

[xvi]Gray, Why Strategy Is Difficult, 10.

[xvii] Cf. Armstrong and Widen, Contemporary Military Theory.

[xviii]Beaufre, André, An Introduction to Strategy (London: Faber and Faber, 1965), 22.

[xix] Cf. Art, To What Ends Military Power?

[xx]Lonsdale, David J., The Campaigns of Alexander the Great. In: John A. Olsen; Colin S. Gray (eds.). The Practice of Strategy: From Alexander the Great to the Present (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2011)33.

[xxi]Luttwak, Edward N., Strategy: The Logic of War and Peace (Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press, 2001), 2.

[xxii] Ibid.

[xxiii] Ibid., 6.

[xxiv] Cf. Armstrong and Widen, Contemporary Military Theory, 36-43.

[xxv] Ibid., 42-43.

[xxvi] Cf. Betts, Richard K., Is Strategy an Illusion? International Security 25 no. 2 (2000), 5-50.

[xxvii]Ibid., 5.

[xxviii] Gaddis, Containment and the Logic of Strategy, 38.

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Defense

Biden, Modi and the Malabar Exercise 2020

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So lastly, the reluctant President Donald Trump, keeping the value of the verdict, allows the GSA to begin the transition under the Presidential Transition Act 1963, on November 23, 2020 making the post-election resources and services available to assist in the event of presidential transition. This facilitates the formal transfer of power and helps the new President adjust his vision and the assessment of the world. Joe Biden has his own view of the burning issues around of which the expanding China, Taiwan, South China Sea, Iran, South Asia and Indo-Pacific constitute important fragments. Now since India is engaged in almost all these issues directly or indirectly and happens to be a long term strategic ally of US the talk between Biden and Modi carries several messages. In the meantime, the conduct of Malabar exercise, that formally involves all the QUAD members (India, Japan, the US and Australia) institutionalizes the strategic relationship in the region and promises more stability and peace.

Prime Minister Narender Modi, just like the heads of Canada, UK, and Australia congratulated the new elect on November 17, 2020. The President-elect Joe Biden, in turn, called him back for thanks and reaffirmation of many things suspected to be under shadow by many. The president-elect noted that he looks forward to working closely with the prime minister on shared global challenges, including containing COVID-19 and defending against future health crises, tackling the threat of climate change, launching the global economic recovery, strengthening democracy at home and abroad, and maintaining a secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific region (The Week). Mr. Biden expressed his desire to carry forward the strong ties between the two states and strengthen and expand the US-India strategic partnership alongside the first Vice President of South Asian descent Kamla Harris. His election policy papers also held that no important global challenge could be solved without the Indo-US partnership.

Besides crafting a greater Indian role in world politics, Biden’s reference to challenges of climate change, the Covid 19 pandemic and global economic recovery, the stress on democracy and peaceful and prosperous Indo-pacific sketch some significant flashes of the coming times. ‘Democracy Assistance’ has been an important objective of US foreign policy since beginning but India has a mercurial stance over the goal as it has succumbed to the exigencies of national interest and security thus playing safe with the undemocratic neighbours. Therefore the US reference brings the dictatorial and nondemocratic regimes into discussion that it aims to size.

Indo-Pacific and the Malabar I&II

The Indo-Pacific and the QUAD have gained prominence in recent past on account of heat generated in the South China Sea and China’s OBOR project affecting the trade interests of ASEAN members, India and the US in the Indian Ocean region. In the October 7, 2020 QUAD members meet at Tokyo the issues of collaboration among the democratic states and challenge to world peace, primarily from China, was discussed seriously. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for the democracies to work together to protect people and partners from the Communist Party of China’s exploitation, corruption and coercion. He referred to the Chinese provocations in the East China Sea, the Mekong, the Himalayas, and the Taiwan Straits (Joshi October 7, 2020). The Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar also called for likeminded countries to coordinate responses. Mr. Jaishanker held that we remain committed to upholding the rules-based international order, underpinned by the rule of law, transparency, freedom of navigation in the international sea, respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty and peaceful resolution of disputes (The Quint, October 7, 2020). However, a strong commitment lacked on the part of India which was met later during the Malabar exercise. India has a clear Indo-Pacific policy as articulated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Shangri-La Dialogue in June 2018, which aims at protecting Indian interests in the Indian ocean region against China’s OBOR and SOP (String of Pearl). Peace and security in the region are high up on India’s list of priorities. As first and foremost, India’s economic interests in the region requires peace and convivial environment. At the same time, India has acknowledged rising China’s threats to its vital national interests in the region. Therefore, India’s strategy must be seen against the background of the interplay between India’s economic interests and national security (Purayil 2019).

The latest 24th edition of Malabar exercises have, however, put all the skeptics aside as India invited Australia also this time for the naval exercises and all the four QUAD members (India, US and Japan) have participated with great zeal. The more interesting thing is that the exercises take place at a time when the world is down with pandemic and the conflicting situations are flaring up in the Middle-East, Central Asia, Caucasus, South Asia and Far East. India is locked up in a border issue at Ladakh with China for over six months and South China Sea simmers under the fire of war threat.  India’s tough times with its smaller neighbours also make the possibility of the institutionalization of QUAD and Indo-Pacific of immense importance.

The first phase of the exercise was held in the Bay of Bengal from November 3-6, and the second phase was conducted in the Arabian Sea from November 17-20. The navies of India, the US, Australia and Japan concluded the second phase of the Malabar naval exercise in the Arabian Sea that involved two aircraft carriers and a number of frontline warships, submarines and maritime aircraft (Mint. November 20, 2020). The major highlight of the exercise was participation of Indian Navy’s Vikramaditya carrier battle group and the Nimitz strike group of the US Navy.

The more significant outcome of the exercise appears to be the proposal of a new fleet by US. On November 17, 2020 speaking at the Naval Submarine League’s annual symposium, the outgoing U.S. Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite suggested the creation of a new fleet within the Indo-Pacific theater, which will take some load off the U.S. Seventh Fleet stationed near Japan. The fleet is to be placed in the crossroads between the Indian and the Pacific oceans, and going to have an Indo-PACOM footprint (Military Men. November 19, 2020). The region already has a Command known as U.S. Indo-Pacific Command found on 30 May 2018 and converted from United States Pacific Command (USPACOM) first found in 1947.

Initially, the Chinese response was balanced, stating that it has noticed the development and believes that military cooperation between countries should be conducive to regional peace and stability. But after the proposed fleet and the President-elect Joe Biden’s presumptive nominee for the secretary of defense position, Michele Flournoy, who is also seen as a China hawk in favor of a robust stance against the People’s Liberation Army, Navy, the idea of the First Fleet may very well carry forward to the next administration (Rej).

Since China had reacted sharply at the inclusion of Japan at the Malabar exercises in 2018 the inclusion of Australia this times irks it more as the idea of QUAD gets more institutionalized and the Indo-Pacific mapping further crystallized. The Biden’s quest for a stronger strategic partnership with India and support for Indian claim to permanent membership of the United Nations and the unflinching support for India against its security issues have raised eyebrows in Beijing. At one stage, the US presence in Diageo Garcia irked India but in the changed scenario the increased US presence in Indian Ocean doesn’t alarm it much, even though it curtails the Indian prominence. In view of OBOR project and the Chinese aggressiveness in the region, India has reconciled to the situation and even the US-Maldives agreement of September goes well with it. However, in the long run it is faced with a double challenge of plugging the Chinese dominance and saving its prominence and at the same time reconcile with a friendly ally in the US. Meanwhile, China, being the largest trade partner of Australia may hurt it economically and rake up heat at the Nine- dash line, Ladakh and Taiwan.

References

  • Joshi, Manoj. October 7, 2020. “The Quad and the Indo-Pacific.” https://www.orfonline.org/expert-speak/quad-indo-pacific/
  • Military Men. November 19, 2020. https://militarymen.in/us-navy-secretary-proposes-new-indo-pacific-fleet-the-diplomat/
  • Mint. November 20, 2020. https://www.livemint.com/news/india/phase-2-of-malabar-2020-exercise-concludes-in-arabian-sea-11605889757803.html
  • Purayil, Muhsin Puthan 2019. Geopolitics. “The 2019 Shangri La Dialogue and Reflections on India’s Indo-Pacific Strategy.” https://thegeopolitics.com/the-2019-shangri-la-dialogue-and-reflections-on-indias-indo-pacific-strategy/.
  • Rej, Abhijnan. The Diplomat. November 18, 2020. https://thediplomat.com/2020/11/us-navy-secretary-proposes-new-indo-pacific-fleet/
  • The Quint. October 7, 2020). https://www.thequint.com/news/india/we-will-work-together-s-jaishankar-meets-mike-pompeo-in-tokyo
  • The Week. https://www.theweek.in/wire-updates/international/2020/11/18/fgn2-us-biden-modi.html

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