Perception, Strategy and Interest: The State and Foreign Policy in India after Independence

  • Subrata K. Mitra


After decades of obscurity and benign neglect by security analysts, South Asia has suddenly loomed large on the radar screens of the Western security establishment. The current U.S.-led war against terrorism is a key factor behind the high profile accorded to this region, for the remnants of the Al Quaida bases in Afghanistan are suspected to have shifted into the tribal areas of Pakistan, supported by a terrorist network spread throughout the region. But even beyond the current problems, security has been a constant factor for South Asia’s policy makers who have had to contend with ethnic conflict, secessionist movements, drugs, illegal weapons smuggling and a weak and ill-equipped state apparatus on an almost constant basis since decolonisation.1 All these problems have become connected and reinforced because of the nuclearisation of India and Pakistan, locked into a proxy war over Kashmir which India cannot manage to win and Pakistan cannot afford to lose.


Foreign Policy Armed Conflict Standard View Indian Security Minimum Security 
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  1. 1.
    See Subrata K. Mitra et al., “Autonomie und Sezessionsbestrebungen in Nordostindien”, in: Erich Reiter (ed.), Jahrbuch für Internationale Sicherheitspolitik 2001. Hamburg: E.S. Mittler and Sohn, 2001.Google Scholar
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    See India Today International, October 7, 2002, p. 1, for details of the discourse on these attacks in India.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    The strategy of removing controversial issues from the agenda in order to strengthen cooperation is equivalent to “non-issue making”. For this see P. Bacharach and M. Baratz, “Two Faces of Power”, in: American Political Science Review, 1962 (56), pp. 947–952.Google Scholar
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    For a detailed analysis of this point, see Subrata K. Mitra, “Nehru’s Policy Towards Kashmir: Bringing Politics Back In Again”, in: Journal of Commonwealth & Comparative Politics, Vol. 35, No. 2. (July 1997 ), pp. 55–74.Google Scholar
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    D. K. Palit, War in High Himalaya. The Indian Army in Crisis, 1962. London: Hurst & Company, 1991, gives a very convincing analysis of the war.Google Scholar
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    Srivastava, Shastri’s biographer, sums them up as follows 1. India had no desire whatsoever to acquire even one square inch of Pakistani territory. 2. India genuinely wished Pakistan well and would have been delighted to see Pakistan progress and prosper. 3. India would never allow any interference by Pakistan in Kashmir which was an integral part of India, and 4. India and Pakistan had to live together in peace and harmony, as they were constituted without either side trying to do anything to destabilise the other. See C.P. Srivastava, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Prime Minister of India, 1964–1966. Delhi: OUP, 1995, p. 186.Google Scholar
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    See Ramesh Thakur, “India in the World. Neither Rich, Powerful, nor Principled”, in: Foreign Affairs Vol. 76 No. 4, July/August 1997, p. 20.Google Scholar
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    For the story of the IPKF in Sri Lanka, see Depinder Singh, The IPKF in Sri Lanka. Noida: Trishul Publ., 1991.Google Scholar
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    See Subrata K. Mitra, “War and Peace in South Asia: a revisionist view of India-Pakistan relations”, Contemporary South Asia (2001), 10(3), pp. 361–379. Also, refer to J.-L. Racine, “The uncertain triangle: India, China and Pakistan — The regional and international dimensions” at
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    Notwithstanding Indian openness and garrulity, the preparations for the nuclear tests in Pokhran were kept secret up to the very last moment, a fact that is considered to be a major intelligence failure on the part of the American NSA.Google Scholar
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    The rhetorical opening remark of Sunil Khilnani’s much-discussed The Idea of India. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1997, p.1, is characteristic of this genre: “What is the history of India the history of?”.Google Scholar
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    Notice, for example, the tremendous costs in terms of lives and prestige paid for an Indian stand on Sri Lanka and the utter silence of the Indian regime on the most important settlement concluded between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government in 2002.Google Scholar
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    See R. Babbage and S. Gordon (eds.), India’s Strategic Future: Regional State or Global Power? Delhi: OUP, 2002, p. 171.Google Scholar
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    Kenneth Waltz, Man, the State and War. New York: Columbia University Press, 1959, p. 232.Google Scholar
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    The SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) Charter does not provide for the discussion of domestic issues of member states which makes its institutional forum unavailable for the discussion of Indo- Pakistani relations, focussed as they are, on Kashmir.Google Scholar
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    This is not mere speculation. The prestigious Mehboob-ul-Haq Centre for Human Development of Islamabad has provided some precise figures on the extent of the peace dividend that both countries could expect. A freeze on military expenses at the 1996 level in real terms would “gain” Pakistan 762 billion rupees and India 2,111 billion rupees in the year 2010. With a reduction of 2%, the figures, respectively for Pakistan and India would be 980 and 2,603 billion rupees; with 5%, the peace dividends would go up to 1,248 and 3,198 billion rupees. Mahbub ul Haq, Human Development in South Asia 1997. Karachi et al.: Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 86 (table 4.4).Google Scholar
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    For the sake of simplicity, one can present the situation as symmetric. Pakistani strategists would reason exactly in the same manner as India, though there are variations on the theme of the exact impact of the first strike and the differential capacity for a second strike. The second mode of reasoning is the number of days that the bigger India could sustain a war against Pakistan as opposed to the latter who would prefer a more intense war of shorter duration and must therefore equip itself differently from its physically larger neighbour.Google Scholar
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    R. Axelrod, The Evolution of Co-operation. London: Penguin, 1990.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Recent reports of Chinese incursions into Arunachal Pradesh and reactivation of the disputed 650 mile border in India’s north-east known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC) denotes what Indian policy makers regard as the hostile presence of the Chinese. Luke Harding, reporting from New Delhi, comments: “If superficially polite, relations between New Delhi and Beijing are best characterised as mistrustful. India accuses China of helping Pakistan to stockpile a nuclear and missile arsenal much larger than its own — a claim backed by US intelligence.” Luke Harding, “China accused of infiltrating into India”, The Guardian Weekly, Oct 18, 2000, p. 17.Google Scholar

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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Subrata K. Mitra
    • 1
  1. 1.University of HeidelbergGermany

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