Karnad, Bharat. Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security

Karnad, Bharat. Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security – Book Review

Andrew C. Winner

Karnad, Bharat. Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security. New Delhi: Macmillan India, 2002.724pp. Rs795

Roy-Chaudhury, Rahul. India’s Maritime Security. New Delhi: Knowledge World, 2000. 208pp. $42.64

Analysts and observers interested in global security issues would do well to pay closer attention to the always rich debate in Indian security circles about that country’s future national policies, supporting budgets, and force structures. India is a rising power with a rapidly growing economy, an increasing military budget, and in some key areas, a newly enhanced national will to translate its potential into broader influence on the world stage. These two books are excellent examples of the national debate on how India should use its power to protect and advance its growing national interests. Each covers specific elements of India’s national security–nuclear weapons and maritime security.

Bharat Karnad is an unabashed advocate of a robust Indian nuclear weapons structure, doctrine, and policy. Karnad, a national security polio/analyst at an Indian think tank, the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi, was a member of the First National Security Advisor Board to the National Security Council of India. In that capacity, he was a member of the Nuclear Doctrine Drafting Group. In the wake of India’s May 1998 nuclear weapons tests, the group produced a draft nuclear doctrine that was submitted to the National Security Council in August 1999. (After significant delay, the essence of the doctrine was adopted formally in January 2003.) The author is squarely and proudly in the realist school of political science, basing his arguments and assessments on the proposition that the world is an anarchic place, that states ate the primary international actors, and that power–with military power at its core–is all that matters.

The book is sweeping in scope. Karnad is prescriptive and uses his interpretation of history to create a strong case for his prescribed end state for India and its nuclear forces. This end state consists of a nuclear force for India containing 350-400 nuclear warheads/ weapons, some with megaton yields, and a set of delivery systems that includes “sizable numbers” of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and long-range cruise missiles. Given what the author assumes will be the ICBM force’s problems with accuracy, he recommends a countervalue strategy that he deems sufficient to deter U.S. intervention in Indian affairs. He also notes that a force of this size and structure would be sufficient to achieve notional parity with China.

While it is easy to focus on the headline-making conclusions that arise from Karnad’s tome, a reader would do well to take the time to read the entire piece carefully. The first half of the book is a comprehensive history and analysis of India’s evolution as a nuclear power. In this section, the author convincingly challenges conventional wisdom about the teachings and actions of India’s revered “father of the nation,” Mahatma Gandhi. Karnad argues that the nation’s misinterpretations of Gandhi’s teachings gave rise to a mistaken, and strategically misguided, “moralpolitik” that limited India’s ability to act decisively to advance and protect its own national interests in a Hobbesian world. In fact, the author seeks to debunk the oft-cited link between this moralpolitik and traditional Indian culture and values as expressed in the texts of ancient India. The result of this political philosophy, which championed morality in pursuit of interests and led to “doctrinaire positions on the exercise of force” was that India as a collective lacked the will to achieve power in the decades following its independence.

In the second thematic half of the book, a 250-page chapter 5, Karnad uses more recent historical examples and analyses of real and potential great-power scenarios to make the case that India must fashion a set of nuclear doctrines, policies, and capabilities to advance its regional and global interests. Specifically, he warns against deterrence by “half-measures,” noting that India cannot rely on other powers to protect it. Specifically, he argues that U.S. and Indian interests, even currently, are likely to converge only in the short term and that India must have the military wherewithal, specifically in the nuclear realm, to ensure that it does not become a vassal of Washington.

Roy-Chaudhury’s book also delves into an element of India’s national security and the appropriate policy to address it, but his area of focus is one less fraught with potential controversy–maritime security. His recommended course of action, that India adopt a new maritime security policy to update and expand the outdated and inadequate Ocean Policy Statement of 1982, is also less alarming. Roy-Chaudhury’s study is a natural follow-up to his Sea Power and Indian Security (Brassey’s, 1995), which was favorably reviewed in the Summer 1996 issue of this journal. While his previous book chronicled Indian naval developments, this work deftly outlines the maritime dimensions of India’s security–economic, political, and military–and suggests the development of an overall policy framework to tie them together.

Roy-Chaudhury is currently a Fellow for South Asia at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in London. This book was written while he was a research fellow at the Institute for Defense Studies and Analysis (IDSA), a think tank funded by India’s Ministry of Defense. While at IDSA, Roy-Chaudhury specialized in naval and maritime security affairs, and the combination of his time in this environment and his previous studies makes him eminently qualified to produce a volume on such a subject.

The author outlines India’s impressive economic growth in the last decade and the international, particularly maritime, implications of that trend. In essence, India has become more dependent on trade for its prosperity, and, in turn, it has become more reliant on such imported resources as crude oil, with consumption of petroleum products rising during the 1990s more or less at the same rate as India’s gross domestic product–about 7 percent per annum. Roy-Chaudhury picks up the concerns of his first book about the importance of a viable national merchant fleet in addition to a navy for a country’s security, noting that India’s rapidly growing trade is not being met by a similar growth in either India’s merchant fleet or port handling capacity. The author describes a range of international economic groupings to which India became a member in the 1990s and how those may bolster even further India’s trade ties.

He goes on to discuss India’s rights and interests in its exclusive economic zone, the maritime portions of India’s longstanding rivalry with Pakistan, and the rise of such new, nonstate security issues in the Indian Ocean as piracy and arms and narcotics trafficking. He highlights the changing capabilities of four countries with naval presence in the Indian Ocean, making the case that more traditional security issues remain salient and indeed may grow in their maritime dimensions. He then essentially picks up from his earlier book and describes the Indian Navy’s modernization over the decade of the 1990s. Here he notes that despite increasing maritime security issues and increased attention paid to the navy, the recommended force structure outlined in 1964, consisting of fifty-four principal combatants, has yet to be reached. Where Karnad attributes shortfalls in India’s nuclear forces primarily to a lack of political will, Roy-Chaudhury makes a more mixed case for the navy’s shortfall. He notes the lack of funding over the years, the collapse of India’s primary supplier (the Soviet Union) in the early 1990s, and the slow transition of India from a buyer of combatants to a builder.

Roy-Chaudhury concludes, after a discussion of naval cooperation, that the various dimensions of India’s security that rely on the sea are growing more important, not less. Therefore, he recommends that the Indian government as a whole, not just the navy or the Ministry of Defense, adopt a national-level maritime security policy, essentially an updated and expanded ocean policy statement. He was brought into the National Security Council Secretariat to implement such a recommendation. While a draft policy was drawn up in 2001, it has yet to be promulgated, pending the formation of greater institutional links among various Indian ministries with responsibilities in this area. The Ministry of Defense was tasked to initiate such an interministerial coordinating body, but so far the policy has not been formalized. Even without such a public policy, India is moving ahead with enhancing its maritime security in all its spheres.


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