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Last updated: February 15, 2020

1.About the Author. Harsh V Pant is Professor of International Relations in the Defence Studies Department and the India Institute at King’s College, London. He is a Non-Resident fellow with the Wadhwani chair in US-India policy studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington, DC. His current research is focused on Asian security issues. The author writes regularly for various media outlets including the Japan Times, the Wall Street Journal, The National (UAE), and The Telegraph. The author’s wealth of knowledge from his years of experience in various Universities and colleges and his research suitably qualifies him to cover the subject in detail.

2.Synopsis. The Handbook of Indian Defence Policy aims to provide a convincing, compelling and comprehensive survey of India’s defence policy since it gained independence in 1947. India has experienced rapid economic growth since it undertook economic reforms and liberalisation in 1991. India grew at approximately six percent during 1991-2000, 8-9 percent during 2001-2010 and 7 percent from 2011-2015. During the same period, India became the third largest economy in purchasing power parity (PPP) behind China and the US. In 2016, it is the fastest growing major economy in the world. Economic growth also translated into rapid growth in defence outlays/ budget and defence expenditure, which in turn, has led to expectations that India will be a major world power if not a super power in the near future.

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3.About the Book.The book is a compilation of various articles written by different writers who have contributed in the given subjects. The uniqueness of the handbook is that all the contributors are from different careers, disciplines and countries. These include academics, practitioners, bureaucrats, officials from the Indian armed forces including a former service chief, a former head of Research ; Analysis Wing (R ; AW) and a journalist. The blend of academic and policy focus, opinions, debate and discussions offers a wide-ranging analysis of different aspects of India’s defence and security policy. The handbook is very well structured and is divided into eight sections with each exploring into different facets of India’s defence and security policy.
4.Section One discusses the origins of the Indian armed forces during the East India Company and later during the British Raj. It highlights the interface and interaction between the military (especially the army) and the Indian society on the one hand and the executive including the bureaucracy and the military on the other. It also considers how and why the military is subservient to the civilian bureaucracy. It illustrates that India inherited a certain structure from the British Raj and even after almost seven decades, India is following more or less the same system. Only modest changes have been introduced, that too due to severe crisis and not because of the alacrity, foresight and vision of the executive, the bureaucracy, the intelligentsia and the policymakers.

5.Section Two examines the important relationship between the Indian military and the country’s foreign policy. Contributors discuss the incongruity between the two and provide recommendations to overcome this. They also suggest that India’s defence diplomacy is erratic and it needs to be boosted significantly for India to achieve great power status.

6.Section three and four brings to fore, the evolution and history of the three armed forces, namely the Army, Navy and the Air Force. The evolution of their doctrines, the role they played in India’s wars during the British Raj and after India achieved independence in 1947 – with Pakistan and China – and in the integration of India especially in Hyderabad, Junagarh and Goa in 1961. The sections also discuss the numerous multi-faceted problems and challenges faced by the three services and the possible solutions. It also discusses the lack of coordination in operations, planning and integration of the three services, the rationale behind it and how this is affecting force multiplication and difficulties for India to meet its security challenges.
7.Section five examines the defence versus development debate. It explains that India did not spend much on defence immediately after independence despite the war with Pakistan in 1948 and the growing threat from China after it annexed Tibet in 1951. Defence spending did increase after India lost to China in the border conflict in 1962 but declined again during the 1970s. In the 1980s military investment went up, with significant expenditure on the navy which was ignored previously. It was only in the new millennium that defence spending has increased tremendously with emphasis on modernisation and procurement of advanced technology and equipment from the US, Russia, Israel and France among others. However, this push to modernise has not progressed smoothly. The writers point to severe setbacks due to problems such as turf wars, bureaucratic politics, corruption, red tape, risk aversion, accountability and lack of force integration and planning.

8.Section Six discusses India’s internal security challenges with a focus on the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, the ‘Naxalite’ movement and the insurgencies in India’s restive and long neglected North East. It is important to note that the ‘Naxalite’ or ‘Maoist’ movement which has been linked to violence in almost 90 of the 540 odd districts in India – where the writ of the state fails in most cases – is considered the biggest internal security threat. This is despite the rise in Islamic fundamentalism in South Asia and the ideological, financial, political and military support provided to non-state actors and terrorist organisations by Pakistan, and to lesser extent by Bangladesh. The section highlights that insurgency, violence and the number of civilian and security forces deaths have decreased significantly in the North East.

9.Section Seven discusses the evolution of India’s national security doctrine and apparatus, and the infrastructure established to deal with the internal security challenges. It examines the evolution and role of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) such as Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Border Security Force (BSF) and Central Industrial Security Force (CISF); paramilitary organisations such as the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), Assam Rifles and Rashtriya Rifles. It also discusses the role of domestic and external intelligence agencies and the police in tackling India’s internal security challenges such as fighting insurgencies, terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism along with achievements, issues, concerns and limitations facing different organisations and tries to provide solutions to overcome these problems.
10.Section Eight focuses on nuclear weapons and space. The contributors discuss the evolution of India’s nuclear doctrine and how institutional, personal and ideological problems have and continue to derail the progress of India’s nuclear, missile and space programmes and hence its security. For instance, the military is completely absent in the decision making and formulation of India’s various doctrines. This privilege is enjoyed by politicians and bureaucrats in the Ministry of Defence who are not at all qualified to make such decisions.

11.Certain additions would have made the handbook more comprehensive. Few of them are as mentioned below:-
A discussion about India’s strategic culture which directly and indirectly influences India’s foreign policy, defence policy and its doctrines were missing. This would have provided the conceptual map of how and why Indian policymakers, the armed forces and society
think and act and how this affects security, defence policy and India’s ability/ inability to meet certain security challenges (both internal and external).

Cyber security is only given a cursory mention by a handful of writers.
Some analysis on the role (or lack of it) of India’s private sector enterprises in India’s defence acquisition, procurement and modernisation would have been valuable.
There were some factual errors as well. For instance, p.79 states that India is the third largest economy in the world. This is misleading as although it is the third largest economy in PPP terms, it lags in other rankings. P.107 states that China supported India during Kargil, when China actually remained diplomatically neutral during the conflict but sold weapons and equipment to Pakistan which helped the latter in the conflict.
12.The book is 425 pages long and covers most of the relevant topics and issues faced by India towards becoming a world power. The Handbook of Indian Defence Policy provides the reader an insight into India’s defence and security policy, the external and internal security challenges. It also focuses on the numerous problems and limitations which might hinder India’s rise to great power status and solutions to overcome the problems, the role of interest groups and other domestic factors on India’s defence and security policy.


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