January 1, 2013

Engaging Wisely

My essay on Indian strategic autonomy appeared in the January 2013 edition of Force magazine. An excerpt is included below:

In just two decades, India went from being a hopelessly impoverished, default-threatened, insurgency-riddled state on the losing side of the Cold War to a stable, increasingly prosperous, globally-engaged, and militarily secure rising power. During this period, India’s share of the global economy doubled, its status as a de facto nuclear weapons state was grudgingly accepted by the international community, and it improved its relations with most major and secondary powers. India underwent this remarkable transition without sacrificing its system of governance, its strategic independence, or its territorial integrity. A well-managed — if unevenly executed — strategy of internal balancing, deterrence, and strategic autonomy appears to have borne rich dividends.

Although strategic autonomy has evidently served India well, and has been implemented shrewdly by the country’s foreign policy practitioners, there is no guarantee that it will endure as a central pillar of India’s foreign policy. While not exhaustive, a list of plausible developments that might force India to abadon— or at least reconsider — strategic autonomy might include: a long-term Indian economic slowdown, Chinese aggression, a generational leadership transition, rebalanced civil-military relations, and the rise of new foreign policy constituencies.

A PDF file of the essay in its entirety can be downloaded here.