War and What To Do About It

A case for the peace lobby to continue its engagement with anti-war issues, even in times of relative peace. The military doctrines are geared for a quick war, resulting in shorter crisis windows. Therefore, keeping the public informed and capitalising on such preparations for ensuring moderation in strategic decisions in crises and war can prove useful when push comes to shove. This would be an uphill task, but inescapable for war avoidance and limitation. 

War is not round the corner, but that is not reason enough to not engage with it as a phenomenon and as an existential threat in South Asia. The rhetoric of “responsible nuclear power,” much in evidence in India’s recent and ongoing Nuclear Suppliers Group bid, should not obscure clear and present nuclear dangers. Realists wish to husband power in order to deter war and, in the case that one is imposed on India, to preserve the national interest. The problem is that sustaining such power creates the conditions for conflict, which in crisis does not necessarily help avert conflict, and in conflict might prove counterproductive to the national interest.

A popular scenario in strategic circles can help explain this paradox of more power not necessarily begetting greater security. Realists in control of the national security establishment and of prime time believe that India’s unassailable power deters Pakistan. This is true in so far as conventional attack is concerned, and also in incentivising Pakistani control over “good” terrorists. However, this is debatable to the extent that Pakistan can control the entire spectrum of terrorists to which it is host. Thus, India can figure in terrorist cross hairs. Assorted jihadists might like to express solidarity with the Kashmiri angst, if only to put one over the Pakistani state, whom they consider as having let their side down by providing only rhetorical support. The military power India has would not deter them and, on the contrary, could even act as a pull factor in case they wish to destabilise Pakistan to expand their reach.

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