In April 2017, the Indian defence ministry released a hefty document detailing the consolidation of its army, navy, air force and strategic forces into a comprehensive joint doctrine for attaining its national goals. Components of the doctrine are woven into the country’s national values and how they pave the way for the formulation of an integrated, ‘joint’ doctrine. It stresses on the consolidation of the elements of national power for achieving its great power status and defining the role of the military to achieve national security interests through different coercive strategies, including the use of diplomacy. In the doctrine, the word ‘ioint’ refers to ‘the synchronisation and integration of various elements of combat power’. Throughout the document, there has remained an emphasis on the need for close integration of military and diplomatic means to achieve national security objectives.
It is important to analyse why this doctrine is of significance for regional and global watchers of India’s ambitious rise to power. Barry Posen, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Security Studies Programme, military doctrines and capabilities reflect the political intentions of states. Although a doctrine is not compulsory as it functions simply as a hypothetical framework for a state’s application of power for military and political ends, it generates threat perceptions for other states who as a response focus on elements from these doctrines to devise their own strategies.
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India’s joint doctrine gives a picture of its grand strategy. It is important here to understand the connection between doctrines and grand strategy. Hal Brands defines grand strategy as “the intellectual architecture that gives form and structure to foreign policy.” Doctrines are formed in line with a state’s long-term military and political goals. Thus, a doctrine can be considered the principles guiding a state’s grand strategy. India’s joint doctrine, in the same way, reflects its long-term political and military ambitions. This is demonstrated in the way that the doctrine is worded, ie, in strong language outlining an ambitious political outlook.
Its joint military doctrine, however, seems to be an outcome of a fisheye lens worldview which distorts the images to Delhi’s needs. The evidence for India’s grand strategic goals can be found in the country’s recent outreach to the US for weapons procurement from the Trump administration, garnering support for the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group membership since 2008, reiterating its case for a permanent seat at the Security Council which gained momentum in 2010, and joining the Missile Technology Control Regime in 2016. The recent custom agreement in the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement between Delhi and Washington further reflects upon the greater effort on India’s part to contain and check China’s rising influence in the neighbourhood. In recent years, India has also successfully achieved the nuclear triad and is currently engaged in building a Ballistic Missile Defence System. Together with these achievements and robust annual economic growth for several years has added to its prestige in the international system.
On the regional level, India’s actions have included consolidating its influence on the smaller states towards its east. For example, using Bhutan and Nepal to maintain its political influence against China as well as strong arming Bangladesh to push India’s agenda in the region. It was India’s involvement in Pakistan’s civil war in 1971 that resulted in the separation of Pakistan’s eastern wing and resulted in the creation of Bangladesh in the first place. India’s influence on the smaller states also led to the fracturing of the Saarc process. Moreover, India has also been involved both covertly and overtly in Afghanistan to destabilise Pak-Afghan relations and trigger insecurity inside Pakistan.
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The Indian spy, Kulbhushan Jadhav, has revealed the details of anti-Pakistan activities that India’s top spy agency have been running inside Pakistan over the last few years. Moreover, India’s threatening rhetoric and military posturing against Pakistan reflect its desire to establish its hegemony in the region. Furthermore, in the last several years, it has successfully managed to incrementally amplify its influence in the Indian Ocean region and in the Pacific by extending its military presence to the South China Sea.
India’s actions in the region have led to a classic security dilemma for Pakistan. The new Indian doctrine leads to long-term implications for Pakistan’s threat perceptions and force posturing, including, but not limited to, an arms race between the two countries. Pakistan shares not only a long and adverse relationship with its bigger and stronger neighbour, but one which has repeatedly over the years expressed hostility against the country, making peace prospects difficult. It has further been strengthened by the support it has received in the last two US administrations and continues to receive from US President Donald Trump. This backing has continued in the Trump administration as well, which is evident in the US keeping its lips sealed concerning Indian atrocities in the Indian-occupied Kashmir. It is quite possible that the US could now support the Indian position in Kashmir which is observable in its declaration of a Kashmiri freedom fighter as an international terrorist by the US.