The following essay appeared in Defence Primer: India at 75 published by the Observer Research Foundation in March 2016. The full text can be accessed here.
It is undeniable that the nature of military force in international affairs has changed in the seven decades since India’s Independence. It has been almost 45 years since India fought a major conventional war, and events since – including the experience of India’s counter-insurgency in Sri Lanka, its development of nuclear weapons, and changing commercial, political, and social relations between India and its neighbours – have further decreased the prospect of large-scale conflict. However, the structure and preparedness of the Indian armed forces has not fully adapted to these changing circumstances.
One development that has gone relatively unnoticed is the greater frequency and visibility – and consequently greater importance – of activities that can be considered military diplomacy. This is natural in peacetime, and in an international environment in which India has few true adversaries and many partners. Although there is no universal definition of what constitutes military diplomacy or defence diplomacy, it can be thought of as any military activity with an expressly diplomatic purpose; in other words, activities where the primary objective is to promote goodwill towards India in other countries.