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National Power Or Military Power?

Info: 5425 words (22 pages) Essay
Published: 12th May 2017 in History

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The international system today is an interplay of national power of different nations. This can be felt in the emerging world order. There has been a perceptible change, particularly during the last two decades, in the manner the nation states conduct international relations. Military alliances have given way to multilateral groupings, understandings and strategic partnerships. Nations are becoming increasingly aware of the power or influence that they wield vis-à-vis other nations. [1] 

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They are also looking at the ways and means to use this national power to secure their vital interests. In the later part of last century, National Power was only considered to be military power as can be understood by the superpower status of Soviet Union. But the disintegration of the Soviet empire and changing face of world relations due to economic globalization changed the world perception and brought the term ‘Comprehensive National Power’. This term was more inclusive of the overall state of the affairs of a nation and a measure of its constituents could indicate the strength and weaknesses. [2] 

National Power has tangible and intangible elements. Geography, natural resources, industrial capacity, population, military power form the tangible parts while national character and morale complete the intangibles. India’s economy has contributed in the last two decades towards a major share of the National power. In fact, India has even demonstrated certain soft power by cooption and attraction of other nations to achieve some of its aims. The primary currencies of soft power are an actor’s values, culture, policies and institutions. India’s soft power is based on its social and cultural values, the Indian Diaspora abroad and its knowledge base. India is being considered a knowledge superpower and is well placed to leverage its position in international relations. However, the military has also contributed towards the soft power. A well-run military has been a source of attraction, and military-to-military cooperation and training programmes, for example, have established transnational networks that enhance country’s soft power.


Statement of Problem

The growth notwithstanding, India cannot afford to be satisfied with its current status. The geopolitical situation in the region is unstable. Though Pakistan has fewer options left after it has been exposed as a hub of terror activities and a haven for wanted terrorists, still if cornered by the world pressure and the internal compulsions it will not think twice in a military option against India to divert the attention and bring in its all weather friend , China, into the picture.

India can achieve its national aims only if the internal and external threats to its security is ensured. This situation can be understood with an analogy to game of soccer; a team may be having the best of strikers in their forward and midfielder players, who can score goals at will, but their efforts are inconsequential if the goalkeeper is not trained and equipped to save goals from adversary.

Thus, in the changing geopolitical situation, it is pertinent to evaluate the share of constituents of National Power to ascertain the future dynamics of a nation’s aspirations and interests and the regional environment.

India has already made tremendous progress in various fields to achieve soft power constituent to contribute towards National Power. Indian economy is showing positive growth and attracting strategic partnership with leading economies around the globe.India , now needs to develop the military constituent to further pursue its National aim.


India needs to develop a potent Military capability by the year 2025 to be able to assert its National Power in keeping with the stated National objectives.

Methods of Data Collection

9. The data for this dissertation has been collected from a large number of books, periodicals, magazines, newspapers, internet and research journals that are available in the Defence Services Staff College library. The data related to Indian Military Power has been collected from open sources only so as to avoid any classified information to be brought out. The Bibliography is attached as Appendix.

Organisation of the Dissertation

Apart from a chapter on the introduction and methodology, the dissertation has been organized under the following chapters:-


Section 1. National Power.

Section 2. India’s National Power.

Section 3. Constituents Of Indian National Power.


Section 1. Elements of Military Power.

Section 2. Present State Of Indian Defence Forces.

Section 3. Defence Budget And Modernisation Program.


Section 1. Analysis.

Section 2. Intra Organisaton Level.

Section 3. Shortcoming As A National Instrument.

Section 4. Recommendations .


Section 1. Geopolitical situation and regional environment In 2025.

Section 2. India’s Predicted Growth By 2025.

Section 3. Desired National Power.

Chapter 2- Examining the constituent of Indian National Power. The present Indian standing in the world order is based on the soft power developed and the economic growth achieved by India. India as rising economy, offers excellent investment opportunity to the world. The democratic form of governance also projects India as stable and secure investment site in the long run. However we need to examine the constituents and their present share towards National Power.

Chapter 3- Military Power. It itself comprises the tangibles and the intangibles. It can be broadly categorized in force capability and force employment. There has been a change in war fighting. The technological advancement ,weapon lethality, destructiveness and precision along with the information frontier has increased the cost factor of going to war. Thus there is a need to analyse the military power constituents to understand the importance towards national Power.

Chapter 4- Analysis and Short comings of Indian Military Power. To suggest steps towards projecting a stronger military power the present capability needs to be analysed and the shortcoming to be highlighted.

Chapter 5- Desired National Power by 2025. The regional environment in the near future entails proactive approach by India to project comprehensive national power to have secured borders and assured growth to achieve its national aims .



National Power

1. The international system today.is an interplay of national power of different nations. There has been a perceptible change.in the manner the nation states conduct International relations. Military alliances have given way to multilateral groupings, understandings and strategic partnerships. Nations are becoming increasingly.aware of the power or influence that they weild.vis-à-vis other nations.

2. During 1960 and 70s most theorists.doing research on international relations avoided dealing.with phenomenon of power. National power was considered synonymous.with military power. This would explain to a great extent the superpower status.of erstwhile Soviet Union and its unexpected disintegration. Since then perception of national power.has undergone a change. It is called as comprehensive National power by the theorists which is a more inclusive term comprising all the facets of a nation’s resources which contribute towards its security.

Defining National Power

3. National power is the ability of a nation with the use of which.it can get its will obeyed by other nations. It involves the capacity to use force.or threat of use of force over other nations. With the use of national power, a nation is able to control.the behavior of other nations in accordance with its own will. In other words, it denotes the ability of a nation.to fulfill its national goals. It also tells us how much powerful or weak.a particular nation is in securing its national goals.

Basic Elements Of National Power

4. The basic elements of national power include diplomacy, economics, informational, soft power and the age old trustworthy element of military power. It can also be classified as comprising of tangible elements and intangible elements. Geography, natural resources, industrial capacities, population, military power form the tangible elements of national power and national character and morale complete the intangibles.

India’s National Power

5. In international politics, the image of India till recently used to be in terms.of its perennial rivalry with Pakistan and as power confined to South Asia only. However, as result of the remarkable improvement.in India’s national strength over the last decade, consisting of.its hard and soft powers, the world has started rehyphenating India.with a rapidly growing China. The term rising India is a buzzword in the International Relations discourse nowadays. India’s national power has begun to rise steadily.since Pokhran-II. India unleashed a slew of path-breaking initiatives.in quick succession in 1998 (and beyond). It was from this year onwards that the idea of India being a great power,.first floated by Nehru, started to be reflected in its foreign policy. Admittedly, India shifted its foreign and economic policies.soon after the end of the Cold War in 1991 when it started broadbasing.its diplomacy, initiated economic reforms by dismantling the economic model.based on import substitution, and went for market friendly policies. The economic reforms did give India economic stability.in the sense that India started growing at 6% annually.ever since the economic liberalization of early 1990s, however, political stability remained fragile. The country got much-needed political stability.at the center in March 1998 and a series of radical initiatives in quick succession beginning with the nuclear tests in the Pokhran desert of Rajasthan on May 11th and 13th 1998, was a grand strategic masterstroke by independent India. India initiated Multi-aligned/Great power diplomacy.for the first time in its independent history when it developed strategic partnerships.with all the great powers simultaneously, especially its relations with the United States and Japan, while retaining time-tested ties with Russia. India made institutional arrangements to its national security.when it set up the National Security.Advisory Board, National Security.Council, Nuclear Command Authority, developed a.nuclear doctrine, and so on.

6. More importantly, India developed a much needed strategic vision.whereby it redefined its geo-strategic.construct well beyond the mainland of South Asia. The comprehensive geo-strategic.construct included the Indian Ocean, the Middle East, Central Asia and the Asia-Pacific. In fact, the 1998 nuclear tests themselves were indicative of the fact that India had begun to appreciate the role of hard power in securing its national interests and also in making her influence heard in international politics.

7. The India, that China defeated.in 1962 was guided by a foreign policy canon of non-alignment.vis -à-vis the superpower enmity, and it remained the cornerstone of India’s international.diplomacy for more than four decades. However, this foreign policy paradigm underwent.a U-turn when it metamorphosed into poly/multi-alignment under the new leadership.in New Delhi in 1998. The new foreign policy outlook.broadly had two components, namely, improving relations with the US and its Look East Policy-II. The turnaround in India-US relations from being “estranged democracies” during the Cold War to “engaged democracies” in the 2000s has played a central role in bringing out a shift in China’s India posture over the last decade. India has been a democracy right since its birth as a modern nation-state in 1947. However, its sluggish economic growth and weak military profile that led to its defeat in 1962 seriously stained this aspect of India’s soft power.

8. With the rising India story, its democracy as an important component of its soft power has again come into the global limelight. India has more than 1 billion people. It is linguistically, culturally, racially, and religiously diverse, and it is growing economically at an enviable pace under democratic governmental institutions (except for the emergency period of 1975-77 when civil liberties were undermined). Its culture values peaceful coexistence, nonviolence, and religious tolerance. All of these factors, combined with the largest pool of English speakers outside the US, has increased India’s power of attraction without need for coercion or persuasion, a fact not lost on an envious, hard power-minded China. The country to which India has projected most of its soft power is the US, through the export of highly skilled manpower, consisting mainly of software developers, engineers, and doctors.

9. In military terms, post-1998 India has been enjoying strategic capital, in the sense that, unlike the rise of China, India’s military rise is not only not feared but it is felt to be desirable by the countries in the Asia-Pacific like Japan, Australia, South Korea, and ASEAN as a group. Most importantly even the US sees India’s military rise in its own interests.28 Interestingly, a rising India is making full use of this capital by emerging as a formidable military power over the last decade, apart from unveiling even more ambitious military plans for the future



Military Power

1. Military Power is military dimension of national power. National power embodies soft persuasive or attractive elements as well as its hard or military component. Military power can itself mean different things in different contexts; as military forces do different things ranging from defending national territory to invading other states; countering terrorists or insurgents, keeping the peace, enforcing economic sanctions, maintain domestic order. Proficiency in one task does not entail proficiency in all as good defenders of national territory can make poor peacekeepers and also may not be able to conquer neighbours.

2. Since beginning of civilization, military power has been the primary instruement nation states have used to control and dominate each other. With the growth of technology, the destructiveness of military power has reached apocalyptic proportions.

3. Throughout history, military power has been paramount and economic power a luxury. This has slowly changed to the point that the two roles have been reversed. Japan, China have relied on economic prosperity to finance formidable military forces. Conversely, erstwhile Soviet Union, Iraq and North Korea have relied on their military to build economic power with little or limited success.

4. Military power is the capacity to use force or threat of force to influence other states. Components of military power for a nation include number of military formations, armaments, organization, training, equipment, readiness, deployment and morale.

Elements of Military Power

5. Elements of military power are worked out on the basis of military capability of nations. It includes numerical preponderance, technology and force employment. . Numerical preponderance has been exemplified in yesteryears; Napolean said ,

“God is on the side of the big battalion”

6. It is generally believed that states with larger population, more developed economies, larger military should prevail in battle. This is association of victory with material preponderance and beneath this lies the widespread perception that economic strength is precondition for military strength; that economic decline leads to military weakness and that economic policies merit co equal treatment with political and military considerations in national strategy making. Military preparedness requires a military (establishment) capable of supporting the foreign policy of a nation. Contributory factors are – technology,leadership, quality and size of the armed forces.

(a) Technology. The development and adoption of firearms, tanks, guns

and aircraft have had a profound effect on the course of battles. To illustrate,

if one reads the review of British operations during the initial stages of the

Second World War, which Churchill gave in the secret session of parliament

on 23 April 1942,one is struck by the fact that all defeats on land, on sea and

in air have one common denominator-the disregard of technological

capabilities being developed by Germans and the Japanese during the pre-war

years. The U-boats played havoc with the British shipping and adversely

affected their ability to move forces from one theatre of war to another, as

also to sustain them. Conversely, the development of radar technology by the

British during the war years gave them enormous advantage over their

enemies. In the present-day context, capabilities in cyber warfare, space

assets and smart strike weapons will give a great edge to the powers that are

able to develop and operationalise such technologies.

(b) Leadership. The quality of military leadership has always exerted a

decisive influence upon national power. We have the examples of the military

genius of Fredrick the Great, Napoleon, the futility of Maginot Line psychology

of the French General Staff versus the “blitzkrieg” adopted by the German

General Staff, and closer home the effect of superior military leadership led

by Field Marshal SHFJ Manekshaw in India’s 1971 War with Pakistan.

(c) Quality and Size of the Armed Forces. The importance of this factor is

obvious. However, the question that has to be answered by the political

leadership of the country is, how large a military establishment can a nation

afford in view of its resources and commitments or national interests?



Much has been written and said about the potential for Indian military power to play a greater role on the world stage, and perhaps check China’s expanding capabilities in the future.National Security has attained multi-faceted dimensions with wider challenges in diverse fields.There has been growing understandings of these challenges and consequently measures are being taken to overcome the same. India’s remarkable economic growth and newfound access to arms from abroad have raised the prospect of a major rearmament of the country. But without several policy and organizational changes, India’s efforts to modernize its armed forces will not alter the country’s ability to deal with critical security threats. India’s military modernization needs a transparent, legitimate and efficient procurement process. Further, a chief of defense staff could reconcile the competing priorities across the three military services. Finally, India’s defense research agencies need to be subjected to greater oversight.

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India’s rapid economic growth and newfound access to military technology, especially by way of its rapprochement with the United States, have raised hopes of a military revival in the country. Against this optimism about the rise of Indian military power stands the reality that India has not been able to alter its military-strategic position despite being one of the world’s largest importers of advanced conventional weapons for three decades.

Civil-military relations in India have focused too heavily on one side of the problem – how to ensure civilian control over the armed forces, while neglecting the other – how to build and field an effective military force. This imbalance in civil-military relations has caused military modernization and reforms to suffer from a lack of political guidance, disunity of purpose and effort and material and intellectual corruption.

The Effects of Strategic Restraint

Sixty years after embarking on a rivalry with Pakistan, India has not been able to alter its strategic relationship with a country less than one-fifth its size. India’s many counterinsurgencies have lasted twenty years on an average, double the worldwide average. Since the 1998 nuclear tests, reports of a growing missile gap with Pakistan have called into question the quality of India’s nuclear deterrent. The high point of Indian military history – the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971- therefore, stands in sharp contrast to the persistent inability of the country to raise effective military forces.

No factor more accounts for the haphazard nature of Indian military modernization than the lack of political leadership on defense, stemming from the doctrine of strategic restraint. Key political leaders rejected the use of force as an instrument of politics in favor of a policy of strategic restraint that minimized the importance of the military.

The Government of India held to its strong anti-militarism despite the reality of conflict and war that followed independence. Much has been made of the downgrading of the service chiefs in the protocol rank, but of greater consequence was the elevation of military science and research as essential to the long-term defense of India over the armed forces themselves. Nehru invited British physicist P.M.S. Blackett to examine the relationship between science and defense. Blackett came back with a report that called for capping Indian defense spending at 2 percent of GDP and limited military modernization. He also recommended state funding and ownership of military research laboratories and established his protégé, Daulat Singh Kothari, as the head of the labs.

Indian defense spending decreased during the 1950s. Of the three services, the Indian Navy received greater attention with negotiations for the acquisition of India’s first aircraft carrier. The Indian Air Force acquired World War II surplus Canberra transport. The Indian Army, the biggest service by a wide margin, went to Congo on a UN peacekeeping mission, but was neglected overall. India had its first defense procurement scandal when buying old jeeps and experienced its first civil-military crisis when an army chief threatened to resign protesting political interference in military matters. The decade culminated in the government’s ‘forward policy’ against China, which Nehru foisted on an unprepared army, and led to the war of 1962 with China that ended in a humiliating Indian defeat.

The foremost lesson of 1962 was that India could not afford further military retrenchment. The Indian government launched a significant military expansion program that doubled the size of the army and raised a fighting air force. With the focus shifting North, the Indian Navy received less attention. A less recognized lesson of the war was that political interference in military matters ought to be limited. The military – and especially the army – asked for and received operational and institutional autonomy, a fact most visible in the wars of 1965 and 1971.

The problem, however, was that the political leadership did not suddenly become more comfortable with the military as an institution; they remained wary of the possibility of a coup d’etat and militarism more generally.

The Indian civil-military relations landscape has changed marginally since. In the eighties, there was a degree of political-military confluence in the Rajiv Gandhi government: Rajiv appointed a military buff, Arun Singh, as the minister of state for defense. At the same time, Krishnaswami Sundarji, an exceptional officer, became the army chief. Together they launched an ambitious program of military modernization in response to Pakistani rearmament and nuclearization. Pakistan’s nuclearization allowed that country to escalate the subconventional conflict in Kashmir while stemming Indian ability to escalate to a general war, where it had superiority. India is yet to emerge from this stability-instability paradox.

The puzzle of Brasstacks stands in a line of similar decisions. In 1971, India did not push the advantage of its victory in the eastern theatre to the West. Instead, New Delhi, underuberrealist Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, signed on to an equivocal agreement at Simla that committed both sides to peaceful resolution of future disputes without any enforcement measures. India’s decision to wait 24 years between its first nuclear test in 1974 and the second set of tests in 1998 is equally puzzling. Why did it not follow through after the 1974 test, and why did it test in 1998?

Underlying these puzzles is a remarkable preference for strategic restraint. Indian leaders simply have not seen the use of force as a useful instrument of politics. This foundation of ambivalence informs Indian defense policy, and consequently its military modernization and reform efforts.

To be sure, military restraint in a region as volatile as South Asia is wise and has helped persuade the great powers to accommodate India’s rise, but it does not help military planning. Together with the separation of the armed forces from the government, divisions among the services and between the services and other related agencies, and the inability of the military to seek formal support for policies it deems important, India’s strategic restraint has served to deny political guidance to the efforts of the armed forces to modernize. As wise as strategic restraint may be, Pakistan, India’s primary rival, hardly believes it to be true. Islamabad prepares as if India were an aggressive power and this has a real impact on India’s security.

Domestic And Regional Constraints

India faces several daunting domestic and border challenges within its own neighborhood that may prevent it from thinking more globally – including the unresolved issue of Kashmir, an increasingly grave Maoist threat, Islamic terrorism from Pakistan, and unresolved border issues with China which broke out in war in 1962. Beijing’s effort to beef up its presence in South Asia is also seen as challenging Indian dominance there.

The Lack of Strategy

India’s military modernization remains, and likely will continue to be, an a-strategic pursuit of new technology with little vision. There is a whole host of problems that the nation faces, including:

Little political guidance from the civilian leadership to the military. This is true even on the general issue of what India’s major goals should be. Even the Indian navy, which is often assumed to be the most forward thinking institution within India’s military, does not see itself as more than a “naval blockade” vis-à-vis Pakistan.

Lack of organizational and institutional reforms. The need to reprioritize resources is never addressed, what is addressed is the procurement of new material, thus making modernization merely an exercise in linear expansion.

No legitimate and transparent procurement system. As a result, purchases are often ridden with scandals, corrupt, delayed and highly politicized. India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) is also “a failed organization that is ideologically corrupt”, but there has not been an honest attempt to put it under public scrutiny.

Imbalance in Civil-Military Relations

What suffices for a military modernization plan is a wish list of weapon systems amounting to as much as $100 billion from the three services and hollow announcements of coming breakthroughs from the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO), the premier agency for military research in India.

The process is illustrative. The armed forces propose to acquire certain weapon systems. The political leadership and the civilian bureaucracy, especially the Ministry of Finance, react to these requests, agreeing on some and rejecting others. A number of dysfunctions ensue.

First, the services see things differently and their plans are essentially uncoordinated. Coming off the experience of the Kargil war and Operation Parakram, the Indian Army seems to have arrived at a Cold Start doctrine, seeking to find some fighting space between subconventional conflict and nuclear exchange in the standoff with Pakistan. The doctrine may not be official policy, but it informs the army’s wish list, where attack helicopters, tanks and long-range artillery stand out as marquee items. The Indian Air Force (IAF), meanwhile, is the primary instrument of the country’s nuclear deterrent. The IAF’s close second role is air superiority and air defense. Close air support, to which the IAF has belatedly agreed and which is essential to the army’s Cold Start doctrine, is a distant fourth.

The Indian Navy wants to secure the country’s sea-lanes of communications, protect its energy supplies and guard its trade routes. It wants further to be the vehicle of Indian naval diplomacy and sees a role in the anti-piracy efforts in the Malacca Straits and the Horn of Africa. What is less clear is how the Indian Navy might contribute in the event of a war with Pakistan. The navy would like simply to brush past the problem of Pakistan and reach for the grander projects. Accordingly, the Indian Navy’s biggest procurement order is a retrofitted aircraft carrier from Russia.

India’s three services have dramatically different views of what their role in India’s security should be, and there is no political effort to ensure this coordination. Cold Start remains an iffy proposition. India’s nuclear deterrent remains tethered to a single delivery system: fighter aircraft. Meanwhile, the Indian Army’s energies are dissipated with counterinsurgency duties, which might increase manifold if the army is told to fight the rising leftist insurgency, the Naxalites. And all this at a time when the primary security threat to the country has been terrorism. After the Mumbai attacks, the Indian government and the people of India are said to have resolved to tackle the problem headlong, but today the government’s minister in charge of internal security, Palaniappan Chidambaram, is more under siege himself than seizing the hidden enemy.

Second, despite repeated calls for and commissions into reforms in the higher defense structure, planning, intelligence, defense production and procurement, the Indian national security establishment remains fragmented and uncoordinated. The government and armed forces have succeeded in reforms primed by additions to the defense budget but failed to institute reforms that require changes in organization and priorities.

The Kargil Review Committee, and the Group of Ministers report that followed, for example, recommended a slew of reforms. The changes most readily implemented were those that created new commands, agencies and task forces, essentially linear expansion backed by new budgetary allocations. The changes least likely to occur were those required changes in the hierarchy.

The most common example of tough reform is the long-standing recommendation for a chief of defense staff. A military chief, as opposed to the service chiefs, could be a solution to the problem that causes the three services not to reconcile their pr


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