In Search of New Security Concepts

-Sujit Dutta, Senior Fellow,IDSA


Conceptualisation of what is the appropriate domain of international and Asian security and what are its principal concerns in the post-Cold War era has been the subject of an intense debate in recent years. While still largely concerned with the security of the state, security studies have, with the growing democratisation of both international and national societies and the end of the era of acute bipolar military confrontation, been liberated from narrow strategic confines and increasingly begun to focus on more comprehensive definitions of its ambit: preservation of the political system, economic and political well-being of all sections of the people, as well as external security that encompasses military, economic, food, energy, environment and political dimensions. Concepts such as comprehensive security have emerged and been adopted as the appropriate paradigm by several states and a growing number of analysts.1

The broadening of the definition has made analytical tasks more challenging but reconceptualisation has become necessary because of gradual but fundamental and long-term changes in the international system. This paper attempts to identify the changes that call for a new perspective on international security, especially as it operates in the Asian environment, India's approach towards the emerging security challenges, and its options.

Security in a Changing International System

A conjunction of factors has been responsible for necessitating new thinking on the concepts and scope of security studies over the past few years:

(i) The end of the Cold War has reduced international tensions and the arms race, creating conditions for global cooperation and the dismantling of systemic conflicts. Overall security has improved and cross-border trade and investment have begun to lay the foundation of a global interdependent structure that did not exist previously, drawing in all countries. The focus of security has as a result begun to move away from narrow military-security issues to broader issues of global stability, peace, democratisation, and regional conflict resolution. Examples of big power chauvinism, coercion and power politics do not detract from appreciating the long-term trend towards an expansion of international society, multi-polarity, its progressive democratisation, and the growth of universal norms, institutions, and cooperative ties that stabilise international relations.

(ii) The nature of warfare and conflict is undergoing a change and a struggle for techno-economic, political and cultural space, often conducted without military means, is increasingly acquiring prominence. Military power remains crucial as a factor in the overall power of states but its use is increasingly restricted to deterrence against coercion, as an element in strengthening a nation's diplomatic leverage, and a factor in the test of wills between states. The world of the advanced industrialised states has already entered the post-Clausewitzian stage in military relations among themselves, and new countries are constantly being added to that list.2 Military conflicts among most advanced states and major powers are on the wane because the growth of military technology in these states has made warfare too costly and unreliable as an instrument of policy goals. Wars are becoming unwinnable, "teaching lessons" difficult, often counter-productive, except in the North-South context where power asymmetries are large.

Even in large sections of the developing world, conventional warfare is not the preferred norm for settling disputes. A new wave of violent low intensity, irregular warfare which combines the external with the internal has in turn emerged. Born of political alienation, economic disaffection, ethnic assertion, and easy availability of lethal and light weapons, these conflicts have emerged as the greatest challenge in the Balkans, in the post-Soviet Russia, Caucasus and Central Asia; in Africa, West Asia and the Indian subcontinent. States are required to be prepared to fight these new irregular wars with a combination of political, economic and military means. The military's traditional external role and capabilities are no more enough to guarantee security, and internal use of force is politically constrained.

(iii) The collapse of the Soviet Union has shown that even the most powerful states face a multi-dimensional security problematic with internal factors as important as external, often with complex external-internal linkage. Increasingly, a state's internal political, economic, cultural and environmental conditions are as important as its military power for preserving national well-being and security. Survival in inter-state competition through domination, coercion, conflicts that perpetuate dissatisfaction, deep suspicions, and scar national psyches leading to large military outlays often have negative effects on the overall security of states and the international system. Governments today must strike the right balance between diplomacy, military power, techno-economic capabilities, interdependent linkages and participation in regional and global institutional mechanisms in order to enhance security. Unilateral and excessive military build-ups undermine cooperative relations with other states, create tensions and suspicions, and lead to counter-build-ups.

(iv) More than ever, states are dependent on international society, on other states and institutions for their own well-being, for national security. The need to strengthen global institutions and norms increasingly comes into conflict with unilateralist policy goals, of pursuit of narrow self-interest. An interdependent world requires compromise and a spirit of give and take—not destabilising unilateral gains. Interdependence through expanding trade, cross-border investments, technology transfers, joint research and development, and security ties and mobile capital flows across states and continents are laying the basis for an interlocked system of states with the highest interdependence at the developed end. These invaluable ties, as they become thick, act as defensive shields against potential conflicts and trade wars, force nations to negotiate a settlement rather than wage war. Security in the era of globalisation substantially depends on the stability, strength and security of global institutions. The more a state is open, the more are its stakes in international structures, norms and institutions.

(v) International society is not an anarchical state of being in the mould of the Hobbesian state of nature—the principal assumption of realist thought. The use of the much derided term, international "order", has considerable theoretical validity. Even the uncertainties following the sudden collapse of the socialist bloc and the disintegration of the Soviet Union have not led to a generalised "disorder" and anything more than localised wars, most of which have been contained. Anarchy and conflicts which did erupt were localised and made possible by the international system's reluctance to play a positive, constructive, neutral and mediatory role. In many cases, they became acute because the major powers responsible for maintaining global order in fact undermined it by their partisan involvement and pursuit of "realist" logic, or total non-involvement and lack of concern for wars in areas where no vital interests were seen. Thus, the wars in the Balkans, in Afghanistan, and the Caucasus.

It is true that the international system does not have a legitimate sovereign authority to maintain law and order. However, its development since the setting up of the United Nations system has led to legal and regime formations—in the realms of trade, finance, intellectual property rights, external conduct of states, continental shelf and the sea—and the creation of global and regional structures and institutions that are habitually observed by all states. This "order" is hierarchical, hegemonic, and inequitous but it is buttressed by the support of the vast majority of the world's states. The occasional violations of agreed norms, the desire among many for changes in the "order" do not detract from the reality of an established order.

(vi) Neither power nor security is zero sum. They would be if they were inelastic. But in a world where markets, levels of economic prosperity, technological, and military capabilities are constantly expanding, it is possible to enhance the power of all states in a regulated, shared, non-conflictual order. Competition for power—or a larger share of global goods—therefore, need not be a struggle unto domination, war and demise of some.

(vii) There is not enough evidence to suggest that inter-state competition and conflict are the only norm at the current historical stage. In fact, cooperation is the generalised norm and inter-state military conflict increasingly an abnormal phenomenon. Peaceful competition and cooperation coexist and make international society an increasingly dynamic, stable and vibrant realm for all states and peoples. To safeguard security against the use of force or subversion by a rogue state—one that violates universal norms and the UN Charter—defensive military power is essential but that does not validate the logic of high levels of arms build-up, aggressive military doctrines, and the unprovoked use and threat of use of forces. Other instruments—timely warning, diplomatic isolation, and collective sanctions and pressures—must be used to restrain the violator before seeking recourse to military means, and in most cases these steps are likely to be adequate.

Realism as a political theory no longer captures the changing global reality fully or has answers to its new challenges but is a justification for hegemonism and intervention. It is an ideological construct that was born in the womb of European conflicts, global wars, and the Cold War and carries their ugly scars. Realism replicates at the international level social Darwinism, laissez faire, and the Hobbesian state of nature characterised by eternal struggles and conflict where life is nasty, brutish and short. To Hobbes, the solution lay in the Leviathan—the absolutist state that stamps its order on the warring individuals. To the realists, the logical solution to the anarchical international competition and struggle among states is the powerful hegemonic state or a stable balance of power and terror among two or more powerful states. Nuclear weapons and deterrence theory came as a boon to realist thought and constitute the core of its hegemonic order and a "stable" balance. Security is defined in military terms and it has nothing to say about democracy, welfare, freedom and rights. But who can say that a fascist or imperialist order would not prevail in such a competition—it nearly did in the last great war. The post-Cold War world system can have no use for such thought and must find order, stability and peace through other means. The time for the old "Leviathan" has passed. The developed capitalist states found in New Deal and the democratic Welfare State the solution to the chaotic and destabilising effects of rampant individualism and the logic of the market place. The global order of the 21st century needs to translate the lessons of social democracy and the welfare state for creating universal prosperity, common security and sustainable development. This is in the interest of all states—including the most powerful—in an increasingly interdependent and closely bound system. Growth, prosperity and stability in the affluent and powerful North today are intrinsically linked to growth, well-being and stability in the weaker South. Security is indivisible.

(viii) The present global order has been largely created by the advanced industrial democracies and is buttressed by the collective power, will and cooperative needs of the multi-polar concert of these states spanning North America, Europe and East Asia. That powerful economic, security, and political bonds and institutions such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), the European Community, the US-Japan alliance, the Group of Seven, the Organisation of Security Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) have replaced in a span of five decades the terrible legacy of wars, mistrust and inter-state struggle for relative gains among these states, and that these have survived the demise of the Soviet Union and the socialist bloc, is the clearest example of the long-term historical trend towards cooperation—though limited to the hegemonic concert of industrial nations.

There are historically sound reasons why this concert of industrial democracies must be constantly expanded to include new states—Russia, India, the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Latin American democracies in the short to medium term, and thereafter China, and other states as they modernise, mature as industrial democracies, and internalise the norms and institutions of advanced welfare capitalism. Indeed, as the incorporation of Japan and Germany into such post-World War II institutions reveals, such structural linkages and bonding are the only long-term solution to the security fears that Russia, China, Iran, Iraq and others continue to evoke among many of the advanced Northern states. Realist solutions such as containment go against the historical current and must give way to multiple engagement strategies that reward compliance with universal norms and discourage and sanction violations. Just as Cold War alliance structures such as NATO and the US-Japan alliance have found new raison d'etre in mutual security and prevention of a resurgence of competitive military security among the industrial democracies, in the medium to long-term their historical role and goal would have to be in transforming themselves into partnerships for security and peace that incorporates all the major powers in Eurasia—Russia, China, India—and other rising states. There is also very reason to believe that the growing stakes in regional cooperation in Asia as cross-border trade and investments expand would lead to the formation of multilateral economic and security mechanisms in spite of Asian diversity. Many such institutions—such as the ASEAN, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)—have already emerged. The ARF and APEC in particular—or the recently launched Asia-Europe dialogue—could enhance regional cooperation and also help overcome the North-South economic and security divide and are, therefore, positive steps towards expanding the global concert.

(ix) International regime formation in the economic sphere is already in an advanced stage. In the area of national security, however, observance of international norms, recourse to arbitration, cooperation, multilateralism and regime formation are the weakest because the major powers believe that the best way to advance their national security interests is through reliable and well tested national means—power and coercive diplomacy. Uncertainties and instabilities in the developing states especially when they threaten vital economic, political, security and resource interests fuel the strategic logic of maintaining powerful military presence and realist doctrines. With greater modernisation and stability in developing states, the growth of cooperative institutional mechanisms in areas such as the Middle East and Central Asia, and the realisation by the major powers that military means are not necessary or inadequate to preserve their overall national security, regime formation in the area of security and arbitration to settle disputes would become acceptable. This is likely to take place in the coming decades as the major states find coercion and use of force increasingly difficult, counter-productive and costly because of the pressures of public opinion, the growing power of the smaller and medium states, and the need for curbing their own rogue behaviour to prevent international rogue behaviour. At the current historical juncture, however, much of the effort of the advanced Northern concert is to create regimes that preserve their hegemonic role and power in the international system. Arms control regimes such as the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) or the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), in spite of having some positive elements, do not heed the General Will of the vast number of states for nuclear weapon abolition and adoption of non-offensive defence structures by all states.

(x) The special role of core states: Any international order to be effective, needs the support of the core states or the great powers. Without their active participation in creation and implementation of norms, such an order would be dysfunctional. This was recognised by the United Nations system and was the basis of the permanent membership of the Security Council. Yet for any system to remain relevant and legitimate, it must change with the changing international realities. Power has shifted and spread over the past five decades. The massive expansion of international society since 1945 is a reality. The emergence of Japan and Germany as democratic pillars of the world order and of India as a core state with its vast size, old civilisation, potential strength, are part of the new reality. Other core states would emerge in future and would have to be given a leadership role in the UN system. The world system has to be sensitive to the special role and security needs of the core states as long as these do not violate the goals and norms of the international system if it is to be stable and peaceful.

The above ten macro features of the international system are applicable in many ways to the Asian geo-political reality, though there are micro level variations and unique features.

The Asian Reality

The end of the Cold War has on the whole led to positive security gains for Asia—the largest continent:

(i) The end of bipolar conflict—normalisation of great power relations has led to an all-round reduction in tensions and ideological strife, and facilitated a rapid expansion in inter-state ties in Asia.

(ii) It has led to China normalising its relations with India, Russia, Vietnam; the end of the Cambodian civil war; the end of the division between Indo-China and the rest of South-East Asia; the expansion of ASEAN to include Vietnam; the normalisation of the US' relations with Vietnam; UN representation for both Koreas; recognition of South Korea by Russia and China; and the US-North Korea nuclear agreement of 1994, etc.

(iii) Liberalisation and open door strategies adopted by erstwhile state socialist systems in China, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, Mongolia have led to explosive growth, and interlinked them into the international system. A network of interdependence is being created, promoting peace, security and modernisation.

(iv) Creation of APEC, ARF, bilateral and multilateral confidence and security building (CSBM) dialogues and agreements. The 1993 India-China agreement, and China's agreement with Russia and three other Central Asian states on a border agreement that settles most of the long, and disputed border, as well as builds a regime of CBM, and the entry of China, India and Russia into the ARF.

(v) Rapid economic growth in China, East Asia and India is creating greater prosperity, enabling the states to address internal challenges and reduce economic and political tensions, and secessionist tendencies.

(vi) A number of new states have emerged in Central Asia from the womb of the old Soviet Union creating regional vibrancy but also new challenges.

The Asian political landscape has both diverse and common features. It has the world's two largest countries—China and India; several medium states with fairly large populations such as Pakistan, Indonesia, Vietnam, Iran; as well as very small states. It is also the region where the interests of a number of major powers focus—the United States, Russia, China, Japan, India and a number of European powers. The region has some of the largest standing Armies and Air Forces, and growing naval capabilities. In addition, the region has three of the world's nuclear weapon powers and three of the nuclear capable powers—these have immense impact on its security environment.

Asia also has the following characteristic features that distinguish it:

(i) Barring Japan these are all new states which are in the midst of modernisation, industrialisation and urbanisation, and global learning. The rapid socio-economic changes that grip these nations, create special internal and external security problems linked to the prevalence of poverty, inequality, and internal conflicts and instabilities.

(ii) A majority of the states are multi-ethnic which requires tolerant, secular, and decentralised political systems to be stable and secure. Given the internal need for policies that cater to all sections, comprehensive security measures are increasingly relevant. Yet in many cases, authoritarianism, poor governance, centralisation have accentuated internal political and security problems. Secessionist movements, insurgencies, and militancy of various hues have resulted, often aided and abetted by foreign and hostile forces.

(iii) Asia is increasingly interdependent and needs internal order, security of markets, trade routes, and investments. Since modernisation is the principal goal, external peace is vital, and gains from globalisation are seen as vital for modernisation.

(iv) Since these are new states emerging from European colonial empires, many of them have been left with serious problems of state and territorial consolidation, and the region is prone to potential territorial and resource conflicts.

Nonetheless, Asia today enjoys a far greater stability and security than ever in the past 150 years. Most states are keen on rapid modernisation, trade and investments and, therefore, in a peaceful security environment. Collectively and individually, the Asian states have to resolve the many old problems that exist and the emerging new threats. The following problems are the most prominent:

— West Asia and the Gulf remain strife-torn with the Palestine and the Arab-Israeli conflict unmitigated, and Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Iraq caught in conflict and civil wars;

— unsettled territorial conflicts abound, and where these are linked to a struggle for resources such as oil they have aggravated regional tensions—as in the South China Sea;

— fears of Chinese military preponderance and forcible territorial acquisitions;

— fear of a renewed independent Japanese military posture if the US-Japan alliance breaks down;

— threat of conflicts: in the Korean Peninsula, China-Taiwan, South China Sea, India-Pakistan, and Central Asia;

— new arms race: proliferation of nuclear weapons, missiles and advanced conventional weaponry by the major powers is creating pressures for military modernisation in many states;

— the US presence is seen by many states as reassuring for regional security and the Cold War alliances having continued validity. Fears of a power vacuum, and scramble for power by states such as China and Japan have been raised if the US withdraws. The US itself has shown no inclination to withdraw and has buttressed its alliance with Japan and Australia in 1996, in the face of some criticism from China.

While US withdrawal may not be immediately desirable or possible, continued US presence/forward deployment/retention of weapons of mass destruction/and balance of power strategies may not be the best option for long-term security building in the Asian region. Alliance structures cover only a few states and create suspicion, especially in countries such as China. Large military expenditures entailed in maintaining these alliances or the political consensus needed to support the US role are unlikely to be available in the coming years as the Philippines base issue and recent political developments in Okinawa have shown. Within the US itself, public support for such involvement—which entails large defence outlays—could wane in the face of trade and budget deficits. The region, therefore, has to focus on ways to build a new security order based on gradual multilateralism, defensive military capabilities and deepening of cooperative political, economic and military ties. De-alignment can be linked to resolution of the problems across the Taiwan Straits, peaceful unification of the two Koreas, and close security ties between the US, Russia, Japan, China, India and some of the other states such as Iran, Indonesia, Korea and Australia under a partnership for peace framework with a clear peace and security charter equally applicable to all.

Exaggerated regional and Western fears of big Asian states—China, Japan, India—or unilaterally defined "rogue states" that require to be contained, or exaggerated fears of horizontal nuclear proliferation even as nuclear weapons are justified for the security of the major powers—lead to tensions, talk of new containment strategies, clash of civilisations, coercive interventions and justifications for the need to maintain hegemonic peace. These do not advance regional security interests.

At the same time, there are genuine concerns regarding China's growing power, its emerging role in the region and possible hegemonic tendencies and use of force in pursuit of its large sovereignty claims against many of its neighbouring countries. In the Gulf and Central Asia, oil and gas reserves have become the focus of a new Great Game. The security problems that the nuclear weapon states pose to countries such as India have hardly been addressed by the NPT or CTBT. Clearly a new endeavour to address some of the specific problems and concerns needs to be made, both bilaterally and multilaterally. The major powers, particularly the United States, China and Russia have a key role in creating such an ambience.

The challenge, therefore, is how to build stable ties among the major Asian powers; prevent a breakdown of ties and avert a new cold war. Most states agree on the need to pursue engagement, dialogue and non-coercive policies; the creation of a growing concert of peaceful and cooperative states in the face of rapid changes in internal and external security environments.

Since competition and cooperation are both key elements of the Asian reality and there exist diverse challenges to security, only a combination of three measures can create effective security for Asian states at the current juncture:

(a) Comprehensive security: Both internal and external security are interlinked and states have to adopt comprehensive strategies to improve their overall security.

(b) Cooperative security: Security of all states—the region as a whole must be advanced, since insecurity of one breeds insecurity for the others, fuelling arms race and conflict.

(c) Defensive and comprehensive national power build-up to face threats to security: States must build up comprehensive power through rapid modernisation of all sectors—socio-political, economic, military, technological, and cultural and knowledge sectors to take care of their interests within the interdependent, globalised syndrome based on nation states.

India's Approach Towards Security

In the current stage of India's development and geo-political context, security has the following three dimensions:

(a) External: Territorial integrity, sovereignty, regime and system security from external subversion, transborder terrorism, illegal arms supplies fuelling internal conflicts, threat of trade wars, information warfare, technology controls and denials, and threat of nuclear weapons and missiles.

(b) Internal: Insurgencies, terrorism, subversion of the Constitution, secession and separatism, and problems flowing from mis-rule. It also faces the challenges of deeper democratisation, modernisation, poverty, inequality, and environmental pollution that have to be rapidly overcome to create a prosperous and peaceful nation.

(c) External-Internal Linkage: Internal alienation and turmoil fanned by external forces—Pakistan in Punjab, J&K. India also has been burdened by refugee inflows and demographic transfers from most of its neighbours, including China. These have created problems for itself and in inter-state relations.

India has faced one of the most difficult and challenging security environments in the first five decades of independence. In preserving its independence, enhancing its security and pursuing its national and international goals, it has not built an authoritarian state, a national security state or a militarised polity. Against the prevailing political current in the rest of the region, India has adopted a democratic model and maintained it through five decades. Unlike its neighbours and principal threats, China and Pakistan, the Indian military forces are not part of the decision making process and have been under civilian control. Historically, expenditure on defence has been low, hovering between 2 to 3 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), though, China and Pakistan maintained high levels of military expenditures and preparedness from the early years. This has proved costly to the country, resulted in occupation of large parts of its territory, and led to continued threats and pressures.

India is one of the oldest continuing civilisations, yet its modern state formation is merely 50 years old. It is still in the middle stages of global learning and formulation of the appropriate political, economic, and military strategies. This remains valid despite the rich experience that its long history has bestowed upon it. In the realm of strategic and security matters, it has had not one but a number of historically valid traditions—from the Maurya to the Gupta, from the Cholas to the Mughal and British periods—the realism of Kautilya's Arthashastra, the later pacifism of Ashoka, the benevolent and enlightened rule of the Guptas and Akbar which combined power with tolerance, good governance and creation of a friendly neighbourhood, and the hard realism of Aurangzeb and the British colonial rulers.

Post-independence strategic thought, however, was largely shaped by three factors: the absence of large scale war over India for nearly a century, the conduct of the struggle for independence as a largely peaceful mass movement and not through armed struggle, and the dominant leadership's ideological make up and preference for pacifism, cooperative global order, and abhorrence of power politics, wars and the cult of might is right that had led to the colonisation of India and other parts of the world by a handful of European powers. As a result, there was a perceptive lack of interest and experience in military matters and the role of power in the conduct of international relations among the leadership—though India had the unique tradition of having a warrior caste—the Ksatriya—as one of the principle components of the Indian elite and which comprised the princely class that continued to exist through British rule and after.

The Nehruvian world view—a product of the collective experience of the national movement and the character of the leadership that conducted it—which India embraced after independence was essentially a cooperative one. It rejected power politics, the realist logic and the Cold War; and sought to expand India's independence and autonomy through non-alignment, efforts to create Asian, Afro-Asian and finally non-aligned unity in order to create a non-hegemonic and expanding multipolar and democratised order. It gave prominence to diplomacy, building all-round internal capabilities, and lower priority to defence and military power. The efforts suffered many setbacks because of the policies of the major powers as well as aggressive policies pursued by Asian states such as China and Pakistan. Nehru's vision of Asian unity collapsed under the weight of the Cold War and China's aggression in 1959-62. But it kept India on an independent and cooperative path, opposing power politics and external domination.

Many of the challenges of nation building and maintaining autonomy that Premier Jawaharlal Nehru and later governments faced from the 1960s to the 1980s have undergone change, though many remain. New security challenges have emerged. Significant security challenges to peaceful nation building, therefore, exist. The security problems posed by Pakistan and China have changed character but remain on the national vision. Finally, the vision of a global cooperative order and end to realist logic faces the obstacle of the hegemonic cooperation of the advanced industrialised countries.

The North-South divide has persisted. Cooperation and bonding among the advanced industrial Northern concert is what is prominent. While South-South cooperation is low and constrained by structural and financial factors, North-South relations are hegemonic, mistrustful, and asymmetrically weighed in favour of the former.

There are two kinds of dangers that India must confront in this new phase. One is to undermine the role of self-reliance, military power, and sovereign autonomy, and believe the traditional security challenges have disappeared. Globalisation in fact makes the task of internal capability build-up that much more urgent. The other is to adopt hard realism as the appropriate option at this stage. As has been argued in the previous sections, the world order is in gradual, long-term transition towards a cooperative, peaceful framework. But this will not come about easily despite recent gains. India's economic, political, and security approaches must be linked to the global reality and how others behave and not only to its yearning for a cooperative order. Attempts to construct a cooperative world order require India's strength, vision, and autonomous efforts. It must work towards both goals—strength and cooperation—in order to claim its rightful place in the world order, overcome its security problems and create a better regional and global security environment.

This is necessary because clearly there has not been a proper appreciation of India's role, importance, security challenges and needs in the international strategic studies and policy making community. India with its size, long civilisation, its democratic experiment, and potential strength is of the greatest asset to the world's overall well-being and security. India's economic growth, expanding market, and political and military power are crucial for Asian progress and stability. It sees itself as a core state in the world along with the United States, China, Russia, Germany, and Japan because the world's vitality, stability, and security depends to a great extent on their prosperity, capabilities and intentions, and the nature of relations among them. Neglect of India's interest is not in the world's interest. The major powers have an interest in deeply engaging it.

Yet in four key areas, India's vital national interests have been deeply affected by policies, strategies and regime formation efforts by the major powers.

(i) Nuclear and missile control policies.

India's security and political interests are deeply affected and threatened by the continuing nuclear and missile proliferation of the major powers, and India's neighbouring states—China and Pakistan. The matter has been made even more serious by continuing cooperation between China and Pakistan in the nuclear and missile production—making a mockery of formal and informal arms control regimes such such as the NPT and the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). Chinese transfer of all ranges of missiles to Pakistan is a security reality for India. The NPT, MTCR and CTBT militate against India's interests by seeking to maintain the status quo while denying India the right to take relevant measures to safeguard its vital interests. India has been the strongest and the most consistent proponent of a global ban on weapons of mass destruction, on a comprehensive test ban linked to time-bound disarmament, and to implementation of universal and equitable arms control norms that promote the principle of "mutual and equal security." India cannot give up its right to take appropriate steps on the nuclear, missile, and other indegenous programmes as long as inequitous and hegemonic regimes are sought to be perpetuated. Either the world gives up nuclear weapons and missiles or India's right to possess them must be recognised. India has shown immense responsibility and restraints with its programmes at the cost of its security interests following China's 1964 test. For this nation with deep stakes in nuclear energy and a non-hegemonic world order, the status quo is clearly not acceptable.

(ii) Technology controls.

A series of technology controls and sanctions buttress the unequal nuclear and missile regimes that the West has created. Since the 1974 Pokhran test, it has deeply affected India's right to safeguard its security and build indigenous strategic and conventional capabilities permitted by most of these regimes. India is not party to all regimes that are not universally and equitably constructed and has not violated any international agreements, yet sanctions on dual use technologies have been imposed and more are threatened if the country takes steps to preserve its economic, industrial, scientific and military interests. Such untenable, unilateral and hostile measures are a cause for serious misunderstanding between India and the US and Europe. This issue needs to be resolved if relations are to grow.

(iii) Policies that cause serious asymmetry of power between China and India.

The US and Western attempt to read Asia geo-politically as Asia-Pacific and see the US as an effective manager of regional threats and for dealing with China, is not fully favourable to India. Such policies have led to engagement strategies that perpetuate an asymmetry of power between China and the rest of Asia, legitimise its nuclear capability and its arms transfers while keeping the lid on India's power. China's power, strategies and intentions deeply affect India's interests and India does not have any security alliance or nuclear umbrella. It cannot politically accept a secondary status in the international system that is structurally created and buttressed by regimes and big power strategies. Therefore, a wider Asian perspective and rectification of dangerous security imbalances that the current Western strategy creates need to be given serious consideration.

(iv) Human rights, terrorism, and self-determination.

Western policies towards terrorism and militancy in Punjab and Kashmir have largely been detrimental to India's interest. Despite large-scale killings and disturbances caused by heavily armed secessionist and insurgent forces, political and moral support has been habitually given by many Western political parties, the media and governments to them on false grounds of human rights and self-determination. Yet the complex issues, the reality of India's democracy, the problems of economic development in a developing state, and the legal protection of rights for all people have not been paid adequate attention. It is with greatest difficulty that India has won its battle against such forces in Punjab and is in the process of doing so in Kashmir. In both places, the democratic verdict has debunked the claims of self-determination and the cult of militancy. India's tolerant, secular, and democratic order—in spite of its deficiencies—provides equal rights to all peoples. This cannot be said of many advanced nations. Moreover, the West should, after its experience in the Balkans, recognise the political and security dangers and the tragedy of fanning self-determination in complex multi-ethnic societies.


For both Asia and the international system there are some key problems which need attention if the progressive character and democratisation of the system is to continue.

(i) The possibility that the unit search for security and interest may clash with the interests of others leading to conflict and the undermining of the interdependent structure needs to be constrained through the development of universal security enhancing policies and structures, and peaceful settlement of disputes.

(ii) It is important to develop structural, normative and democratic constraints and controls against rogue behaviour—or violations of universal norms and the UN Charter—by states. The global consensus and norms are normally strong enough to prevent or to punish violations by small and medium states. Where it faces problems is in dealing with violations by the major powers on whom the principal responsibility of maintaining the universally adopted legal norms and structures rests. Thus, the system had no solution to habitual violation of international norms by the two superpowers or by other major powers such as China, Britain or France through the Cold War years, and would find it difficult to constrain the great powers from committing violations in the post-Cold War phase. Any study of the post-1945 history of international conflicts would reveal that these five powers were the source of an overwhelming number of interventions, wars and violations of the UN Charter. How to undermine the hold of narrow realism in strategic thought, therefore, remains a principal challenge, and its continuation is a major obstacle for making the international society peaceful, stable and fair.

(iii) It is necessary to transform the role of military power from an offensive to a defensive mould, prevent use of force to settle disputes, pressures and threats, and create cooperative bilateral and multilateral security regimes and partnerships for peace.3 Military build-up and deterrence would remain relevant as long as the world does not find a way to dismantle the theory and structures of realist strategy and its core instruments: threat and use of force, subversion, smart offensive weapons and new forms of domination through information control, and hegemonism. This is a major challenge before the world community since the most important powers, even as they integrate deeply with the world order, continue to pursue realist strategies necessitating defensive build-ups and counter-measures by other states.

A democratic India with valuable experiences in building a federal multi-ethnic union faces the challenge of building security in a complex multi-state and major power environment. It has to work with other like minded states to build an equitable, prosperous and secure future through a deepening of multilateral structures even as it takes appropriate steps to safeguard its security through effective deterrent measures and capability build-up.



1. Japan was the first country to officially adopt comprehensive security. See the Report of the Group on Comprehensive Security, July 2, 1980, Tokyo.

2. This is not yet true of many of the developing states or in the context of a major asymmetry of power between an industrial and a semi-industrialised state.

3. See the important work being done by Moeller on Defensive Defence and Non-Offensive Defence (NOD).