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India’s Ascent: A Muscular Foreign Policy and the Imperative of Military Strength

Sub Title : It is imperative for India to maintain a strong military to support its rising economic and diplomatic influence

Issues Details : Vol 17 Issue 6 Jan – Feb 2024

Author : Col Ashwani Sharma, Editor-in Chief, South Asia Defence & Strategic Review

Page No. : 11

Category : Military Affairs

: January 27, 2024

As India navigates the complexities of a rapidly changing world, the synergy between economic prowess, a muscular foreign policy, and robust military strength emerges as a defining feature of its ascent. The nation’s trajectory toward becoming the third-largest economy by 2030 is intrinsically linked to its ability to safeguard its interests, assert its influence, and contribute to global stability through a strong and adaptable military.

In the dynamic landscape of global geopolitics, India has emerged as a rising regional and global power, showcasing a more assertive and no-nonsense foreign policy. With its burgeoning economy currently ranked as the fifth-largest in the world, India is poised to ascend to the position of the third-largest economy by 2030. This remarkable economic growth has naturally spurred a parallel emphasis on bolstering military strength, reflecting the understanding that a rising nation must be underpinned by robust hard power capabilities.

Economic Prowess as a Foundation

India’s economic trajectory serves as the bedrock of its geopolitical rise. Over the past few decades, the country has experienced significant economic growth, lifting millions out of poverty and expanding the middle class. This economic prowess has not only enhanced India’s global influence but also provided the financial foundation necessary for sustaining a formidable military.

As India inches closer to becoming the third-largest economy, the imperative of aligning military strength with economic might become increasingly apparent. A strong economy acts as a force multiplier for the military, enabling investments in cutting-edge technology, advanced weaponry, and strategic infrastructure. This symbiotic relationship between economic growth and military strength is integral to India’s aspirations of playing a decisive role in shaping the future of global geopolitics.

Muscular Foreign Policy: A Strategic Shift

India’s foreign policy has undergone a discernible transformation in recent years, marked by a more muscular and pragmatic approach. This shift reflects a departure from historical reticence, as India asserts itself on the global stage with confidence and conviction. The country has diversified its diplomatic engagements, forming strategic partnerships with key players across different continents.

One notable aspect of India’s foreign policy is the pursuit of strategic autonomy. While actively participating in international forums and collaborations, India maintains an independent stance, safeguarding its national interests. This approach, often characterized as a “no-nonsense” policy, emphasizes India’s determination to pursue its objectives without succumbing to external pressures.

Military Power as a Strategic Imperative

In the pursuit of its geopolitical ambitions, India recognizes the crucial role that military strength plays in securing national interests and maintaining regional stability. The geopolitical landscape in South Asia and the broader Indo-Pacific region is marked by complex challenges, ranging from territorial disputes to the rise of non-state actors and the strategic manoeuvrings of global powers.

A robust military is not merely a deterrent; it is a guarantor of sovereignty and a tool for shaping regional dynamics. The strategic imperatives of India’s military strength encompass a spectrum of objectives, including securing borders, responding to asymmetric threats, and contributing to peacekeeping operations. Moreover, a capable military serves as a diplomatic asset, enhancing India’s credibility and influence in international negotiations.

Challenges on Multiple Fronts

As India aspires to assert itself globally, it faces multifaceted challenges that necessitate a comprehensive and adaptable military strategy. The longstanding border tensions with Pakistan and China, internal security concerns, and the evolving nature of modern warfare present a complex set of challenges. The military must be prepared to address both conventional and unconventional threats, including cyber warfare, terrorism, and hybrid conflicts. The multifaceted challenges that India encounters on both its eastern and western borders, coupled with internal security concerns, underscore the critical importance of a comprehensive and adaptable military strategy.

Longstanding Border Tensions: India shares longstanding border tensions with both Pakistan and China, making it imperative to maintain a robust defense posture. The Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan and the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China present complex geopolitical challenges. India’s military must be prepared to address territorial integrity concerns and respond decisively to any external threats.

Internal Security Concerns: Beyond external threats, India grapples with internal security challenges, including insurgencies and regional conflicts. The Northeast, for example, has witnessed insurgencies, necessitating a military presence to maintain law and order. A robust military strategy is crucial to addressing internal security threats while ensuring a delicate balance between security measures and respecting regional sentiments.

Evolving Nature of Modern Warfare: The nature of warfare has evolved significantly, demanding a paradigm shift in military strategy. Traditional notions of warfare are being challenged by technological advancements, asymmetric threats, and unconventional tactics. India’s military must stay ahead of the curve, embracing modern technologies and innovative approaches to counter emerging threats effectively.

Conventional and Unconventional Threats: India faces a spectrum of threats, ranging from conventional military conflicts to unconventional challenges. The military must be prepared to engage in conventional warfare to protect national interests and territorial integrity. Simultaneously, unconventional threats such as cyber warfare, terrorism, and hybrid conflicts require specialized capabilities and a proactive defence strategy.

Cyber Warfare: The increasing reliance on digital infrastructure makes India vulnerable to cyber threats. A comprehensive military strategy should include robust cybersecurity measures to protect critical assets, communication networks, and sensitive information. Cyber capabilities are essential not only for defence but also for maintaining an edge in the information domain.

Terrorism: India has long been a victim of terrorism, emanating from both state and non-state actors. A resilient military strategy must address the asymmetric nature of terrorist threats, emphasizing intelligence gathering, counter-terrorism operations, and collaboration with the international community to eradicate terror networks.

Hybrid Conflicts: Hybrid conflicts, which blend conventional and unconventional tactics, pose a unique challenge. From information warfare to economic coercion, these conflicts require a nuanced military response. India’s military strategy should encompass a holistic approach that considers political, economic, and social factors along with military capabilities.

It is crucial to highlight the proactive measures taken by the Indian military and the government to address these challenges. Investments in modernizing the armed forces, fostering international collaborations, and prioritizing innovation demonstrate India’s commitment to building a military that can effectively navigate the complexities of the contemporary security landscape.

The territorial disputes in the Himalayan region, particularly the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China, underscore the importance of a well-equipped and agile military. Recent incidents have highlighted the need for vigilance and rapid response capabilities to safeguard territorial integrity. Additionally, the military must navigate the delicate balance between maintaining a robust defence posture and engaging in diplomatic efforts to de-escalate tensions.

Strategic Partnerships and Arms Procurement

Recognizing the need for advanced military capabilities, India has actively pursued strategic partnerships with key defence suppliers and engaged in extensive arms procurement. Collaborations with countries like the United States, Russia, Israel, and France have facilitated the acquisition of cutting-edge technology and weaponry. These partnerships not only enhance India’s military capabilities but also contribute to the development of its defence industry.

The Make in India initiative, aimed at promoting indigenous defence production, is a crucial component of India’s strategy to reduce dependence on foreign arms suppliers. By fostering domestic innovation and manufacturing, India seeks to enhance self-sufficiency in defence production, ensuring a reliable supply chain and reducing vulnerabilities associated with external dependencies.

Regional Dynamics and the Indo-Pacific

In the context of the Indo-Pacific, India’s military strength assumes heightened significance. The region is witnessing a strategic realignment with the rise of China and the recalibration of global power dynamics. As a key player in the Indo-Pacific, India’s military capabilities contribute to maintaining a balance of power and safeguarding maritime interests.

The Indian Navy, in particular, plays a pivotal role in ensuring freedom of navigation, securing sea lanes of communication, and responding to emergent security challenges. As the geopolitical centre of gravity shifts towards the Indo-Pacific, India’s naval capabilities become increasingly vital for preserving regional stability and upholding international norms.

Challenges and Opportunities in Cyber and Space Domains

In the contemporary landscape, military strength extends beyond traditional domains to encompass cyber and space capabilities. As technology evolves, the vulnerabilities and opportunities in these domains become more pronounced. India’s military must confront the challenges of cyber threats, information warfare, and the militarisation of space.

Developing robust cybersecurity measures and investing in space-based capabilities are imperative for safeguarding national security interests. The military’s ability to operate effectively in these domains not only ensures a comprehensive defence posture but also positions India as a technologically advanced and forward-looking player on the global stage.

Conclusion: The Road Ahead

As India navigates the complexities of a rapidly changing world, the synergy between economic prowess, a muscular foreign policy, and robust military strength emerges as a defining feature of its ascent. The nation’s trajectory toward becoming the third-largest economy by 2030 is intrinsically linked to its ability to safeguard its interests, assert its influence, and contribute to global stability through a strong and adaptable military.

The challenges on multiple fronts demand a strategic approach that combines deterrence with diplomacy, innovation with self-reliance. The pursuit of military strength is not an end in itself but a means to secure a peaceful and prosperous future for the nation. India’s rise as a global power necessitates a continuous commitment to modernization, strategic partnerships, and the cultivation of a military capable of addressing 21st-century challenges.

In conclusion, the imperative of military strength for a rising India is not only a pragmatic response to the complexities of the current geopolitical landscape but also a strategic investment in the nation’s future. As the third-largest economy beckons on the horizon, India’s military must stand as a stalwart guardian, ready to navigate the uncertainties and seize the opportunities that lie ahead.