Political Science Answer Writing Practice 2018 - Week 8 - Question 3

90 Days Political Science Answer Writing Practice Question 1 for 02-Jan-2019

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02-Jan-2019 - Question 1

India is often said to have a rich strategic culture. Discuss. (150 words) - 2018

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Model Answer

The concept of strategic culture has become widely used in the field of international relations, primarily in the context of efforts to explain the distinctive strategic behaviours of states through reference to their unique strategic properties.

Since independence, India has been an independent actor on the international stage with a role, a diplomatic style, and a unique and recognisable personality all her own.

There are core strategic values that India has embraced and lived by since Independence despite changes in strategic, foreign and security policies. It is inspired by not only the Arthashastra, but the Ramayana and the Mahabharata also, leavened by the complexities and contradictions inherent in Indian thought that have evolved over centuries of being a culture that encompassed and assimilated “foreign” influences. 

But In 1992, the Pentagon commissioned a study about India’s strategic culture to the RAND Corporation. Its author, George Tanham, concluded that, due to its culture of spiritualism and timelessness, India had no endogenous tradition of strategic thought. Some scholars in Security Studies in India and in the West shared Tanham’s view and claimed that in the land of Buddha and Mahatma Gandhi there was an ideational void where the occidental world had its Thucydides, Machiavelli, Clausewitz, A.T. Mahan or W. D. Sokolowski.

In 2006, some 14 years after Tanham’s study, the U.S. Department of Defense commissioned another study on the same subject. Titled India’s Strategic Culture, its author, Rodney W. Jones, came to conclusions that are diametrically opposed to Tanham’s. For Jones, India does have a distinct strategic culture and the ideas of Kautilya, the ancient Indian theorist of statecraft, are an essential components thereof: 

«India’s strategic culture is not monolithic, rather is mosaic-like, but as a composite is more distinct and coherent than that of most contemporary nation-states. This is due to its substantial continuity with the symbolism of pre-modern Indian state systems and threads of Vedic civilization dating back several millennia .Indian strategic culture therefore draws on Chanakya’s secular treatise, the Arthashastra, which closely parallels Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince, as an exposition of monarchical statecraft, realpolitik in inter-state balances of power, and the practices of war and peace.”

Shivshankar Menon,  India’s National Security Adviser from 2012 to 2014 said “Frankly speaking, for a civilization and state like India not to have a strategic culture is impossible. Of course,  India have a strategic culture. It is an indigenous construct over millennia, modified considerably by our experience in the last two centuries.”

India closely assesses the external environment and debate on the efficacy of the use of military power in addressing external threats. That India tends to give priority to dialogue over the use of military power in foreign policy does not mean it did not have a strategic culture; it just means that the strategic preferences are different from the normal understanding of how Great Powers behave.

Today, not much is being heard of the erstwhile supporters of Tanham’s ‘absence’-thesis. Still today, India needs to import military technology, but India never depended on the import of strategic thinking nor combat morale and skill.    

Indian strategic culture is a function of our assimilative history. As Menon says, “Strategy is not just about outdoing an adversary who is trying to do the same to you. It is also about finding cooperative solutions and creating outcomes in non-zero-sum situations, even when others are motivated by self-interest and not benevolence.” 

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