From Restraint to Proactivism

India's Strategic Shift

In abandoning strategic restraint in favour of strategic proactivism, India is transiting from a strategic doctrine of offensive deterrence to compellence. This is not without its dangers since the military doctrines of India and Pakistan are presently coupled in a volatile way. Moving towards proactivism makes them altogether combustible. This makes the strategic logic of the shift suspect, prompting speculations as to its inspiration.

That India has not articulated its strategic doctrine in the form of a national defence white paper makes its strategic doctrine—a state’s approach to the use of force—difficult to pin down. However, the recent Uri terror attack episode and its counter by India in surgical strikes suggest that there is a tendency from strategic restraint (reticence in the use of force) towards strategic proactivism (a propensity for the use of force). The government, mindful of the internal constituency in the run-up to elections in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, has sought to give the military operations along the Line of Control (LoC) the veneer of a decisive shift.

Perceptive observers, such as former national security advisor Shivshankar Menon, reckon that the difference is in the government now making political capital from military operations, whereas the earlier practice was that these were kept covert (Haidar 2016). However, from the Bharatiya Janata Party’s national general secretary’s statement calling for such a shift, it appears India is not quite there yet (Rajeev 2016). India is constrained by deficiencies in capability, particularly in military equipment. This prompted for the first time since Operation Parakram in 2002–03, the fast-tracking of a major off-the-shelf purchase of anti-tank, artillery, and air ammunition to the tune of ₹5,000 crore (Unnithan 2016), followed speedily by another allocation of ₹80,000 crore for acquisitions (Dubey 2016). It appears India is getting the elements of the shift in place.

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